860C.918/9–2645: Telegram

The Ambassador in Poland (Lane) to the Secretary of State

304. When Keith1 presented September 24 to Zebrowski of Foreign Office, Allen of Associated Press, Arnot of United Press and Hill of New York Times, Zebrowski indicated that copy of American correspondents should be submitted to Foreign Office for approval prior to transmission. It developed during discussion that Tass2 sends dispatches without reference to Polish authorities. Keith pointed out that it was his understanding that the freedom of the press as referred to in the Potsdam Declaration did not contemplate censorship. He also said that United States correspondents might in event of censorship being applied leave country and file stories from abroad. Because of importance of clarifying this issue at once an appointment was made for me to see Modzelewski September 25.

I expressed surprise to Modzelewski that question of censorship had been raised especially in view of President Bierut’s assurances to me on previous day that Polish Government had as a matter of course carried out its obligation made at Potsdam.3 I referred to article 9 section A, paragraph 4 of Potsdam Communiqué “that representatives of the Allied press shall enjoy full freedom to report to the world upon developments in Poland before and during elections.” Modzelewski said that nobody in Poland was talking about elections here and that he could not admit that the present is a period before the elections. After remarking that Polish elections are now being discussed abroad I inquired why the Potsdam decision had not been made more precise as to the period before the elections in which American press representatives should be permitted within the country. I said that it is obvious that the present moment is a period “before the elections” and that any attempt to deny this would be contrary to the letter and spirit of the Potsdam Agreement. I said that I must insist that the agreement be respected.

Modzelewski then said that no censorship was contemplated but merely “control” (the conversation was in French). I said that “control” is an elastic term and I desired to know exactly what he had in mind. He said that Polish Government merely wished to know what the correspondents were sending, that no objection would be made to any expression of opinion even if derogatory to the Government or statement of facts if exact. I said that the newspaper correspondents [Page 381] would be the first to deplore the transmission of inexact messages and felt sure their principals in the US would not permit correspondents to remain in Poland if they sent erroneous information.

Modzelewski referred to broadcast from London covering report by Allen of Associated Press from Warsaw to the effect there was shooting followed by cries in Warsaw streets. He said that it is true that there is shooting in Warsaw but no cries. I said that if he would occupy a room as I did in front of Polonia Hotel4 he would hear shooting and cries every evening, that I had seen persons shot from my own window. I said that Allen merely reported factually. Modzelewski finally admitted that what he wished to prevent was transmission of copy detrimental to Polish-United States relations. I said that I could assure him that none of the correspondents here now nor their principals desire to damage our relations nor am I here for that purpose but on the contrary to improve them. It was agreed that if Modzelewski had any complaint regarding deliberate attempt of correspondents to injure relations between Poland and United States he would notify me and I would make recommendations based on my judgment of the facts to the Department for eventual transmission to the principal of the correspondent in the United States.

I said that up to then I had spoken on behalf of the correspondents. Now I wished to speak on behalf of Poland. If Polish Government adopts any measures to repress reporting of what is going on in Poland effect in United States would be disastrous. I reminded Modzelewski that he is not familiar personally with United States and for that reason he cannot appreciate seriousness with which suppression of freedom of expression is regarded in our country.

I trust in view of this conversation that there will be no further question of suppression of news from Poland. It is possible furthermore as in the case of Allen’s despatch broadcast from London that news stories from American correspondents in Poland will reach the outside world without supervision and I made no agreement to have United States newspaper copy submitted to Foreign Office although I will advise American correspondents of Modzelewski’s remarks.

I should appreciate it if Department would notify Associated Press, United Press and New York Times of foregoing with request that it be treated as confidential.

  1. Gerald Keith, Counselor of Embassy.
  2. Official news agency of the Soviet Union.
  3. See telegram 296, September 25, noon, from Warsaw, supra.
  4. Location of the offices of the American Embassy and the residence of the American Ambassador.