180. Paper Prepared in the Central Intelligence Agency1


  • Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty Comment and Cross-Reporting On Events in Poland and Czechoslovakia

1. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Coverage: Radio Free Europe’s coverage of the Warsaw student demonstrations has been factual and restrained with quiet emphasis on the limits of its knowledge.2 Broadcasts to Poland stress that the students have, in a mature fashion, focused their demands on the immediate student issues involved—the arrest and expulsion of students, violation of the university’s extraterritorial status, and disregard of the rights of defendants in university disciplinary proceedings. The broadcasts also point out that the students have been influenced by the events in Czechoslovakia3 and student discontent elsewhere in the world, compounded by the recent series of repressive cultural measures in their own country and their awareness of Poland’s general failure to continue the processes of democratization and modernization that seemed so promising in 1956.

2. Cross-Reporting: News of the street demonstrations in Warsaw is being cross-reported to RFE’s other audiences—Czechoslovak, Hungarian, Rumanian and Bulgarian—with special emphasis on comparisons with developments in Czechoslovakia where the Interior Ministry condemned police violence against students during demonstrations in Prague in October.4 In addition to providing its Soviet audience with full coverage of developments in Poland, Radio Liberty takes Soviet media to task for failure to give any coverage at all to the Polish events.

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3. Effectiveness: Ambassador Gronouski has cabled the State Department that RFE’s broadcasts to Poland during the present crisis, particularly detailed up-to-date accounts of Polish events and comparative treatment of developments in Czechoslovakia, have been “especially appreciated by the Polish audience.”5 Another Warsaw report states that many Poles are full of praise for RFE coverage of the news, the only source they listen to in order to get the true facts.6 It notes that RFE broadcasts have left Polish media no choice but to react hastily in their treatment, with resulting fumbling and blunders as they attempt to present some of the facts. Although RFE broadcasts to Czechoslovakia are jammed, there is considerable evidence that they are heard by Czechoslovak listeners.7 Western broadcasts, including RadLib, are the only source of information about the Polish crisis in the Soviet Union since Soviet media have maintained a complete blackout on news of the Polish demonstrations.

4. Policy Controls: Special procedures have been implemented to insure that RFE broadcasts continue to follow the guidelines set forth in the guidance papers and that there be no “shooting from the hip.”8 The Director of the Polish Broadcast Desk has agreed with American management that it is absolutely essential that tone and content of RFE programming, including news programs, be as unemotional as possible and that the voices of his announcers be normal and unexcited.9 The Director of the Czechoslovak Broadcast Desk was given a lengthy review by the Director of RFE10 of the lessons learned from the experience of the Hungarian Revolt in 1956. The new President of Free Europe, Inc.,11 assured his Board of Directors on 11 March that policy controls and script controls were firmly in the hands of American management. Radio Liberty has also instituted emergency policy procedures which entail advance approval of daily policy and programming with their American headquarters.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Subject File, Box 44, Radio Free Europe, Vol. 1. Confidential. No drafting information appears on the paper. Helms sent the paper to the President under a March 15 typed note, in which he stated: “I thought you might be interested to see this brief description of Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty activities during the current unrest in Poland and Czechoslovakia. You will note that both Radios are carefully following the policy guidance set forth by the Department of State.”
  2. An unknown hand highlighted this sentence. For further information about the demonstrations, see Jonathan Randal, “50 Students Held in Polish Protest,” New York Times, February 1, 1968, p. 2; “Police Battle Students Over Play in Poland,” Chicago Tribune, March 9, 1968, p. N4; “Warsaw Students Riot for 7 Hours,” Washington Post, March 12, 1968, p. A1; and “Riots Hit 8 Cities in Poland,” Washington Post, March 14, 1968, p. A1.
  3. See “Czechs Want Democracy to be Returned,” Chicago Tribune, March 11, 1968, p. 14.
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  5. An unknown hand highlighted this sentence. The referenced cable was not found.
  6. An unknown hand highlighted the portion of the sentence beginning with “many” through the end of the sentence. The referenced report was not found.
  7. An unknown hand highlighted the portion of the sentence beginning with “there” through the end of the sentence.
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  9. An unknown hand highlighted the portion of the sentence beginning with “tone” through the end of the sentence.
  10. Reference is to John Richardson, Jr.
  11. Reference is to Lucius D. Clay, who was elected to the position in February 1968. (“Free Europe, Inc., Elects Lucius D. Clay as Chairman,” New York Times, February 10, 1968, p. 67)