IO Files

Minutes of Forty-ninth Meeting of the United States Delegation to the General Assembly, Paris, January 25, 1952

secret
US/A/M(Chr)/236

[Here follows list of persons (42) present.]

1. Freedom of Information and Oatis Case.

Mr. Simsarian said that after considering human rights, Committee Three would proceed to discuss Chapter 5 of the ECOSOC report. Section 5 of Chapter 5 was on freedom of information and the Oatis case. This dealt first with the Newsgathering Convention. He recalled that this convention has been initially drafted in the Freedom of Information Conference in 1948, on the basis of a United States proposal. It had been completed by the Assembly in 1949, and was designed to protect foreign correspondents in their work. The United States had been prepared to sign this Convention at that time, but the Assembly held up opening it for signature until a Convention on Freedom of Information was also completed or finally disposed of. The [Page 819] Delegation’s instructions on the Newsgathering Convention had been modified to allow the postponement of final action on this Convention.

The second part of Section 5 of Chapter 5 of the ECOSOC Report had to do with the Freedom of Information Convention. It was initially placed before the United Nations by a proposal from the UK. The US favored the postponement of consideration of this Convention at this time, since it was not felt to be in satisfactory condition, and we were anxious to have it postponed indefinitely. It appeared that we would be successful in having its consideration postponed at this session because of the lack of time for its adequate consideration.

The third point that would be coming up under this section of the ECOSOC Report, related to the Oatis case. Mr. Simsarian recalled that in the last session of ECOSOC the United States Representative had made a strong statement on the Oatis case and a resolution was adopted with the Oatis case primarily in mind. This matter would not be before Committee Three in the ECOSOC Report. The Department had recommended that the Delegation make a strong statement condemning the action of Czechoslovakia in the Oatis case (see Gadel 8081). The staff felt that other delegations would join in making strong statements to the same point. The staff had been concerned, however, lest these statements would unduly prolong the work of Committee Three and thereby that of the Assembly itself. A telegram explaining this situation had been sent to the Department, with the recommendation however that a strong statement be made on the Oatis case in spite of this fact. The Department expressed its agreement with this recommendation. The staff was now working for support for our statement from other delegations.

Mr. Simsarian stated that it was deemed advisable not to submit a resolution on this case for a number of reasons. The Committee had rejected the consideration of a Polish resolution in regard to Spain. In addition, counter pressures might be expected if we tabled a resolution, which might be so strong as to compel the withdrawal of our resolution. Hence, on balance, it had been decided by the staff that the most effective tactics on the Oatis case would be to confine the United States approach at this time to very strong statements. The Department had endorsed this approach.

Mr. Taylor asked what the reactions of other delegations had been to our proposed move. Mr. Simsarian said that a number of them had indicated they would make strong statements. Mr. Allen inquired whether the move he understood was being contemplated to postpone consideration of the Freedom of Information item would interfere with our plans for making a strong statement on the Oatis case. Mr. Simsarian explained that he did not believe that the submission of this [Page 820] resolution would preclude strong statements on the Oatis case in the Committee.

Mrs. Roosevelt recalled that a Yugoslav delegate had approached her to ask whether the US would allow freedom of information to be discussed. She had pointed out to him that the US was not going to stand in the way of any discussion of freedom of information. Mr. Simsarian added that the Latin Americans, in addition to the Western Europeans, would probably make supporting statements on the Oatis case. In answer to a question by Mr. Lubin, he said that France had agreed to withdraw its proposal for a corrections convention, and would instead support postponement of a detailed discussion of freedom of information this year.

[Here follows discussion of other agenda items.]

Charles D. Cook
  1. Dated January 23, supra.↩