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211. Telegram From Malcolm Browne of the Associated Press, David Halberstam of The New York Times, Peter Kalischer of CBS News, and Neil Sheehan of United Press International to the President1

Mister President, this Sunday morning at the entrance to Chantareansay Pagoda in Saigon nine representatives of American news organizations were subjected to a swift unprovoked and violent attack by government plain clothes police while covering an otherwise peaceful Buddhist religious ceremony. One correspondent was knocked down and kicked. Other newsmen were shoved, jostled and struck by rocks thrown by the plainclothesmen-all in full sight of forty to sixty uniformed metropolitan policemen and a squad of riot police. In the course of the attack one camera was smashed and several damaged.

The uniformed police did not offer any protection to the newsmen and in fact did everything to prevent the correspondents from apprehending the men who were attacking them.

The inescapable conclusion is that the Government of South Vietnam, a country to which the United States is heavily committed, has begun a campaign of open physical intimidation to prevent the covering of news which we feel Americans have a right to know.

Previously foreign correspondents have been expelled from South Vietnam. This is the first time they have been assaulted by representatives of the government. We believe a precedent has been set for increasing obstruction and violence. Since the United States Embassy here does not deem this incident serious enough to make a formal protest, we respectfully request that you, Mister President, protest against this attack and obtain assurances that will not be repeated.2

[Page 473]

Sincerely yours—

Malcolm Browne
Associated Press
David Halberstam
New York Times
Peter Kalischer
CBS News
Neil Sheehan
United Press International
  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Vietnam Country Series, 7/1/63-7/20/63. The telegram was sent via commercial channels to the White House which repeated it as telegram HYWH 4-63 at 6:32 p.m. to the President at Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, where he was spending the weekend. A note on the source text indicates that a copy was sent to the Department of State for Wood.
  2. The Department responded to this telegram on the same day by calling the Washington offices of AP, UPI, and The New York Times and reading them on background a paraphrase of telegram 46 (supra) except for the last two sentences of paragraph 6, the first clause of paragraph 7, paragraph 8, and the last sentence of paragraph 9. (Telegram 37 to Saigon. July 7; Department of State, Central Files, PPV 7 S VIET-US)