293. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Vietnam1

363. To preclude GVN taking one more ill-advised action outlined Embtel 3492 which will further sour press relations and cause serious adverse reaction here in many quarters, you should make following points at highest levels. Suggest Counselor Nhu be included.

It would be great mistake for GVN to ban Newsweek giving clear impression GVN not strong enough to stand criticism and must resort to news blackout.
Impression in U.S. will be that GVN attempting to cover up. This will shake confidence in our present policy of strong support to Vietnam and bring into debate question whether U.S. policy is sound or unsound. As GVN knows, many are unconvinced and will seize this opportunity.
GVN can ill afford this reaction in U.S. and, on balance, it is perfectly clear from here that GVN best interests served by ignoring distasteful news stories and taking it in stride.
If GVN indulges its feelings of anger and bans Newsweek, they should clearly understand consequences described above. U.S. policy is firm in supporting the principle of a free press and we cannot overlook damage to this principle no matter how irritating or unfounded certain press reports frequently are.
Newsweek is sending Ken Crawford to Viet-Nam for approximately one month to survey situation. Crawford is former Washington Bureau Chief, is a senior seasoned reporter now a columnist, who can [Page 673] be expected do objective reporting. This may provide opportunity put GVN-Newsweek relations on better footings.3
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 951K.6211/9-2262. Confidential; Priority. Drafted by Cottrell and cleared with Harriman, Heavner, and USIA. Repeated to CINCPAC for Polad.
  2. Telegram 349, September 25, transmitted a summary of a Vietnamese Information Directorate communiqué that criticized Newsweek and threatened to limit its future entry into Vietnam. (Ibid., 951K.6211/9-2562)
  3. On September 29, Nolting discussed the possible banning of Newsweek with Mau and “bore down on counter-productive and harmful effects” it would have. (Telegram 363 from Saigon, September 29; ibid., 951K.6211/9-2962)