890E.00/136: Telegram

The Diplomatic Agent and Consul General at Beirut ( Wadsworth ) to the Secretary of State

192. Reference last paragraph my 188, May 24, 6 p.m. Regarding censorship Spears makes special point that “it is used to a great extent to prevent the people here from realizing the true position in North Africa.” Again Britt strongly concurs. The most recent instance was a cut of the reference to General Giraud34 in Churchill’s May 19 address to Congress.35

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Other striking examples of general censorship control were suppression of Eden’s March 3 statement encouraging Arab unity (later rectified at British Legation insistence) and of references to Arab aspirations for independence in French-solicited broadcasts by the Lebanese mufti and kadi acclaiming Allied victory in Tunisia.

Spears argues: “This state of affairs is so flagrantly contrary to the democratic idea which your country and mine stand for that I think the least we should do is to make it clear that we are fully aware of what goes on and gravely disapprove”. To this end he suggests we call “jointly but quite unofficially” on Acting Delegate General Helleu.

I have replied orally that, while I recognize a strong dog-in-the-manger motif in French policy here, I should not wish to join him in such representations except at your specific instruction, if only because I feel that, from the hypersensitive viewpoint of a French administration only too cognizant of its national defect and present weakness, our démarche would be misconstrued as a move designed to undermine the jealously guarded remnant of its largely shattered former prestige. I added that I felt the Department, in the light of the current De Gaulle-Giraud negotiations for French unity, might consider any such démarche ill-timed.

It may be, however, that the Department would approve my calling on Helleu to inform him of the substance of that part of Murray’s letter of April 3036 which stresses our interest in seeing constitutional regimes set up through free elections as a first step towards fuller exercise of independence. In that connection I could add without giving undue offense that substantial relaxation of censorship as from now would seem to be an essential element of free electoral expression.

I could too, should you approve, touch on the larger issue by mentioning the specific instances of censorship reported above as well as two recent incidents involving American interests. These were: (1) A decision of the French Political Section to disapprove subscription by its Press Bureau to a United Press news service on the ground that “the Fighting French wanted to assure that Havas37 would not have its territory encroached upon during the war [”]; (2) a seemingly clear instance (now under investigation) of the French mail censors opening by steaming and resealing a letter written [to] the Legation by the head of the American Mission at Latakia.

  1. Gen. Henri Giraud, High Commissioner of French North Africa, following the death of Admiral Darlan in December 1942.
  2. For text of speech by British Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill to the United States Congress, see Congressional Record, vol. 89, pt. 4, p. 4619.
  3. Not printed.
  4. French news agency.