IO Files: US/A/M (Chr)/170

Minutes of the Thirty-fifth Meeting of the United States Delegation to the General Assembly, New York, November 8, 1950, 9:15 a. m.


[Here follow list of persons present (41) and discussion of a prior agenda item.]

2. Freedom of Information

(a) Draft convention on Freedom of Information (SD/A/C.3/138).

Mr. DePalma explained that this item had been held over from two previous Assembly sessions.

[Here follows explanation of the situation regarding the draft convention, in terms of Doc. SD/A/C.3/138. It was pointed out that the United States had been successful at the previous (fourth) session of [Page 532] the General Assembly in getting action deferred on the draft convention, in the hope that “adequate provisions” on freedom of information would be written into the Human Rights Covenant. As action on the draft covenant on human rights was now being delayed at the current General Assembly session, the freedom of information issue was back exactly where it was “two years ago” (at the first part of the third session of the General Assembly, September–December 1948).]

… There was still a great deal of disagreement as to what should be included in the Convention. Very few states actually were anxious to complete the Convention; a number wished to bury it but were not willing to take the initiative. We would have to take this initiative unless we wanted to run the danger of action at this session. Mr. DePalma pointed out that the contemplated Convention would restrict rather than promote, freedom of information. Under existing international circumstances, governments were thinking in terms of restrictions.

There were no questions from members of the Delegation. Mrs. Roosevelt asked whether all agreed on the policy recommended by the Department in this case, first, to try to see whether the other members were willing to wait until the Covenant was completed before action was taken; or if that did not succeed, second, to try to get the best possible amendments to the present Convention. There were no objections.

(b) Freedom of information and of the press in times of emergency (SD/A/C.3/135).1

Mr. DePalma explained that this was a resolution adopted by the Economic and Social Council asking governments in a state of emergency not to impose severe restrictions on freedom of information. The resolution was a rather innocuous one, but certain states liked it and thought it had some relevance. Our recommended position was to support the resolution. Mr. Cohen thought we should support this draft. There was some merit in calling this matter to the attention of countries now who had to take restrictive measures in self-defense. There were no objections to the recommendation that the United States should support this resolution.

(c) Soviet interference with radio broadcasts (SD/A/C.1/136).2

Mr. DePalma explained that this resolution had been supported by the United States member of the Commission on Freedom of Information. It was directed at the Soviet Union and its interference with the Voice of America and the BBC. The resolution constituted a finding [Page 533] that such interference was going on and that Soviet nationals were being denied their right to listen. It condemned such interference and called upon governments to refrain from it. In the Economic and Social Council there had been a feeling that the statement should not specify Soviet responsibility, and the language had been changed to refer to “certain countries.” We had protested because we had had only the Soviets in mind; though Spain did jam international broadcasts off and on, only the Soviets did it systematically. We had not been able to retain the original language.

Our position was to support this resolution strongly. In our statement we would summarize the Soviet interference, and then place major emphasis upon the fact that this policy denied the people of the Soviet Union their right to listen to news. We would not emphasize the difficulty of this policy as it affected the Voice of America and the BBC. We might encounter some difficulty in keeping this issue clear because the Soviets would try to emphasize the confused situation in Europe which arose out of a certain difficulty with respect to the allocation of radio frequencies. We were using frequencies in Germany which the Russians claimed, for example. The Soviets might possibly raise these technical issues. We would try to stop this and would argue that this was a technical problem for consideration in the ITU, which there was no point in raising here. He noted that the Soviets had failed to attend the last meeting of the ITU. In response to a question from Mrs. Roosevelt, Mr. DePalma indicated that the recommendation was to support the resolution in its present text, with the reference to “certain countries” in order to avoid confusing the issue in any way. Mrs. Roosevelt felt there was some advantage in any case in having the reference in the resolution somewhat wider.

[Here follows further brief discussion of the matter.]

  1. Not printed.
  2. Not printed. Additional documentation on this subject is scheduled for publication in volume iv.