Briefing Book Paper1
Admission of American Press Correspondents Into Eastern Europe
American press correspondents have found it practically impossible to report news from, or even to enter, the countries of eastern Europe liberated from German control by the Soviet armies. A consistent policy of excluding foreign journalists has been followed by Soviet military authorities in “operational” areas, which until Germany’s surrender included eastern Germany, Poland, Austria, and most of Czechoslovakia and Hungary, and by the Allied (Soviet) Control Commissions in the three former satellite states. In the United Nations with governments recognized by us (Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia) the situation is somewhat better; correspondents have been able to get into Yugoslavia, after delays in getting clearance, but military-political censorship has been so strict as to make it impossible to send out fair and adequate reports on the course of events; a few correspondents have been to Prague, but have had to file their stories from outside the country, and no regular system for having American journalists operate in Czechoslovakia on a permanent basis has been established. In Allied-controlled and liberated areas of Western Europe, on the other hand, Soviet newsmen have been allowed the same freedom enjoyed by American and British correspondents.
The Department has taken the position that American correspondents should be granted every reasonable facility for reporting to the [Page 319] American people events in this area. We have so informed the Soviet Government and have presented in Moscow the names of those correspondents who desired to go there. We have complied with the requirements for “clearance” established by the Control Commissions in the ex-satellite states. The Soviet Government has not replied to our approaches in Moscow, and the Control Commissions have either refused or taken no action on all applications made to them since last December. The Soviet Government has arranged a few conducted tours to specific points in eastern Europe (e. g. to the Majdanek concentration camp in Poland and to pro-Soviet celebrations in Cluj and Bucharest in Rumania), and one or two have been able to get into the Balkan countries by their own devices, chiefly in the period before the Russians were able to establish strict control; it is from these men, filing their stories from Istanbul, Cairo and other points outside the Soviet-controlled area, that the American public has had its few glimpses of what is going on in eastern Europe. Its regular diet of news comes from Soviet sources.
A strong stand by the United States Government on this question is justified not only by our belief in the principle of the fullest possible freedom of information but also because our effort to bring about the establishment of more representative governments in eastern Europe is hampered by the American public’s lack of knowledge of developments there. If the United States is to be in a position to exert its influence in this direction, it must have the full backing and understanding of the American people, who can be properly and adequately informed only by our press and radio, since it is not advisable to give out officially information of this kind. With the spotlight trained on these areas through the stories of American correspondents, the Soviet Government might be constrained to modify some of its more drastic policies and to become more amenable to our suggestions for the establishment of more representative regimes in the countries concerned.
American press circles have sufficient information to know that important events are taking place in the Soviet-controlled countries and have urged the Department to obtain authorization for their representatives to go there. Our efforts to date having been uniformly unsuccessful, it is recommended that an earnest and firm request be made to Marshal Stalin to lift the “news blackout” in eastern Europe. It could be stated that, in view of the end of hostilities in Europe, there is no good reason for the exclusion of American correspondents from this area or for the continuance of censorship of press dispatches from these countries, and that maintenance of the present “blackout” would not be understood by the American people. In the event of a refusal of this request, we should make it clear to the [Page 320] Soviet Government that we may be obliged to inform the American press that the Soviet Government insists on excluding American correspondents from Eastern Europe despite our earnest and firm requests, from which the press will undoubtedly conclude that the situation there is such that the Soviet authorities do not wish it brought to the attention of American and world opinion. Should the Soviet Government not refuse our request directly but endeavor to put the onus on the respective governments of the countries of Eastern Europe, we should seek Soviet agreement in principle to our position and later exert pressure on those governments to permit the entry of American journalists and to grant them the necessary facilities.
- Annex 8 to the attachment to document No.↩