60. Memorandum From the Director of the United States Information Agency (Reinhardt) to the Deputy Secretary of State (Christopher)1


  • USIA Human Rights Action Proposals

In response to your memorandum of May 30,2 I am attaching USIA’s Human Rights Action Plan. Our objective is to insure that our programs fully support U.S. policy. We will refine our efforts as the Department develops its own regional and country-specific plans this summer.

Our Deputy Director, Charles Bray, will be the USIA representative on the Department’s Human Rights Coordinating Group, at least through the early stages of the effort and until the organization of public diplomacy is clearer.

While we advance a large number of programmatic ideas in the attached, we are sensitive to the need to assure that they are carefully attuned to the evolution of global policy and specific-country situations.

I plan to send copies of the attached proposal to Public Affairs Officers in selected countries abroad where human rights is a sensitive issue.3 Not only do I want their comments on the proposal itself but I want them to begin thinking now about specific plans for USIS support of the Department’s human-rights plan for their country.

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Paper Prepared in the United States Information Agency4


—objectives, themes, treatment—

The purpose of the USIA plan of action is to organize Agency resources for a sustained effort in the human rights field. This plan will be coordinated with the Department’s human rights plans for individual countries as they are developed.

Salient features of the Agency proposals are:

A. Objectives

The basic objective of the plan is to advance human rights. Special attention will be given to:

—Increasing global understanding of, and support for, US policies relating to human rights;

—Strengthening understanding of the universality of basic human rights as defined in the UN Charter and the UN Declaration of Human Rights;

—Providing support and encouragement, where appropriate, to individuals and groups abroad who are actively involved in promoting human rights;

—Creating an international atmosphere more conducive to extending and promoting human rights;

—Describing challenges and responses to human rights issues in the United States.

B. Themes

The following broad thematic categories will be given major emphasis:

—The policies of the Administration reflect historic American concerns.

—The American record in strengthening human rights, while imperfect has relevance to similar efforts in other nations.

—Human rights are a multilateral concern. Positive achievements within individual countries can reinforce each other in assuring a more humane world order.

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—Human rights include economic and social as well as political rights.

C. Treatment

Human rights are an integral part of Agency information output, not the subject of a separate “public relations” campaign.

Programming will be reasoned rather than strident. It will emphasize human rights achievements but will not hesitate to address repressive practices by foreign governments.

In coverage of U.S. human rights developments, our case will benefit in the long run by balanced reporting of both achivements and continuing problems.

Posts will evaluate local perceptions of human rights and take these factors into consideration in their programs on this subject.

While bilateral efforts will be made to foster human rights in special cases, multilateral approaches may stand better chances for success.

In USIA programming, care will be taken to assure that human rights are considered in the overall context of U.S. political, economic and social goals.

USIA will be sensitive to the fact that, in some instances, human rights can be advanced more effectively through quiet diplomacy than through appeal to public opinion.

The following are specific responses to the subject raised in Deputy Secretary Christopher’s May 30 memorandum to Director Reinhardt:

a. Proposals for providing information and guidance on human rights to all USIS field offices.

We shall use a multi-media approach in explicating U.S. policy and promoting human rights. This includes a full range of print and audiovisual materials, together with speakers. Guidance will be tailored to statements and actions by U.S. or foreign officials, and to significant events (e.g. CSCE developments, UN Human Rights Commission meetings, etc.).

We shall periodically explore with field posts their perceptions of local human rights situations, and then develop supplemental programs which are responsive to these conditions.

b. Recommendations of specific steps USIA might take in particular countries to promote human rights.

The following specialized projects will be proposed to support USIS posts in individual countries on the human rights issue. These proposals are illustrative, not exhaustive, of the possibilities open to the Administration via USIA’s programming potential abroad.

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1. USIA will provide a phased series of videotaped interviews or direct video statements by the President, Secretary of State, other cabinet-level officials, and Assistant Secretaries of State. These would provide an essential overview.

2. Agency elements and State/CU should cooperate in the conduct of at least one, and possibly more, International Visitor projects on an appropriate human rights topic. The projects and visitors would be selected on the basis of their potential for tangible follow-up programs (seminars, workshops, symposia, etc.) and other activities overseas.

3. The Agency will provide directories of major American and international human rights organizations to USIS posts and libraries for reference or for presentation to indigenous organizations.

4. We will continue Agency/CU efforts to foster inter-personal communication among officials, opinion leaders and professionals in the human rights field. Three major programs including speakers and media support will be conducted by USIS posts in the coming year:

(a) Human Rights Aspects of U.S. Foreign Policy: e.g. the impact of human rights concerns on bilateral relations; the relation of human rights to arms sales, aid, technology transfer, etc; origins of U.S. foreign policy emphasis on human rights (national beliefs, traditions, Congressional interest, public interests groups).

(b) U.S. Challenges and Responses in the Human Rights Field, e.g.: civil rights—voting, political participation, the legitimacy of opposition, peaceful transfer of power, equal opportunity, minority rights, freedom of expression and movement; civil liberties—freedom of information, privacy, legal representation, habeus corpus; “human fulfillment”.

(c) Human Rights Questions and Economic Development e.g.: the question of whether economic mobilization can occur without suppression of political freedoms and individual rights; North-South issues of distribution of wealth.

5. The Department and USIA should issue guidelines and provide whatever support necessary for Missions to encourage foreign leaders and internationally respected individuals to speak out in support of human rights.

6. The Agency, through its Washington and New York Press Centers, will organize a series of tours for foreign journalists resident in the U.S., including official briefings on human rights concerns and American responses.

7. An international conference on human rights should be proposed for September–October 1978 or in 1979. It would provide a focus for strengthening international understanding of human rights questions, reinforcing commitments to human rights progress, and providing for [Page 184] followup programming overseas by US Missions with Agency and CU support.

The Conference should be structured to maximize constructive exchanges of experience and views in the human rights field, and to minimize polemical or political confrontations.

8. Establish a Human Rights Alert Service, which would use Agency radio and press facilities to call attention to human rights abuses and progress where and as they occur.

In order to ensure that the U.S. effort is fully implemented in the field, the Department should consider establishing a human rights coordinating committee at overseas missions. The committee would consist of representatives from the embassy’s substantive elements including USIS. Its purpose should be two-fold: (1) report on the status of human rights issues in the host country and (2) recommend programs designed to increase understanding of U.S. human rights policies (public affairs goal) and, equally important, encourage promotion of human rights in the host country (political goal). USIS posts would designate a human rights officer who would be a member of the mission’s human rights committee. This officer would help identify target audience members and organizations committed to strengthening human rights (e.g. religious groups, the bar, labor unions, political parties). The USIS human rights officer would also plan and implement public affairs efforts involving human rights.

To take advantage of audience data gained in this way, posts will be asked to broaden their audience lists to include human rights opinion leaders to be reached with program materials and through personal contact.

Specific Agency actions in particular countries will be determined by the political and other factors in the Department’s human rights plan of action for each country. Pending the issuance of these plans, the following approaches could be taken regionally:


In Latin America, the Agency will attempt to make our policies better understood, particularly in view of the bilateral disputes that have arisen over human rights between the United States and many governments in the hemisphere.

Because Latin American posts continue to have regular access to mass media outlets, the Agency will rely heavily on the press, radio and television to influence opinion leaders and the public at large. This is particularly useful in countries where the United States is engaged in human rights questions with authoritarian governments and where we may not be able openly to sponsor lectures and seminar discussions on [Page 185] the subject. Paradoxically, the media in these countries are generally free to report and comment on human rights issues.

Despite potential local difficulties, posts in Central America, Mexico, Argentina, and Brazil have asked for speakers on human rights while USIS posts in Guatemala and Paraguay have asked for exhibits demonstrating the historic U.S. commitment to human rights. USIS Caracas proposes a television co-production with Venezuelan national television on the Administration’s human rights policy.

In addition to these field proposals, the Agency will: (1) produce a television and radio series dramatizing human rights causes out of Latin American and world history; (2) publish a 12-page insert on human rights in the regional edition of the Agency magazine Horizons; (3) publish human rights-oriented books for the Agency’s book translation program for general distribution and introduction into school curricula; (4) recommend that high-ranking USG officials who travel to Latin America be available as voluntary speakers for human rights programming; (5) produce a radio and press series to create greater recognition and prestige for international and private organizations devoted to human rights, with emphasis on the work of the Inter-American Human Rights Commission.


African nations tend to applaud human rights concepts in the abstract but many fail to put them into practice. Most African countries are quick to condemn human rights violations elsewhere but are reluctant to make a public denunciation of misdeeds in other OAU countries.

Given such sensitivities, USIS programming in Africa must be carefully handled in order to avoid the appearance of preaching and charges of interference in local affairs. One approach will be to call on State/CU resources to arrange two-way exchanges of persons in fields of key importance to human rights, particularly in law and jurisprudence. Amnesty International and the American Civil Liberties Union should be utilized, both as resources for these visitors and as sources of speakers for overseas programming.

A second approach will be to publicize, especially through the Voice of America and through post programming in individual countries, the efforts of African countries such as Botswana, Mauritius and Gambia which have good human rights records.

Finally, through consultation with field posts, other media products will be developed to further human rights goals. Exhibits, if discreetly done, are an indispensable tool in closed societies such as Guinea and Somalia, where they are often the post’s most effective information resource.

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USIA’s approach to promoting human rights in Europe must take into account political realities on that continent.

In the communist states, we are obviously restricted in what we can do but not in what we say. Our most important medium is in VOA. We know, for example, that our international radio programs have been welcomed by human rights groups in communist societies. Indeed, our unjammed broadcasts often have had an immediate and direct effect on the governments of these countries. Western publicity about and support for these activities have reinforced the resolve of human rights leaders in the USSR and Eastern Europe. They also appear to have had some restraining effect on the authorities. We should continue to broadcast human rights and to reject charges that this is interference in the internal affairs of other countries.

In Western Europe, our objectives should be to 1) gain support for U.S. human rights policy, and 2) attempt to motivate the Europeans to become more involved in promoting human rights elsewhere. We can do so by strengthening and/or initiating ties with those European institutions and organizations which are concerned with human rights. This includes those European youth organizations whose views are similar to ours in the human rights field. Our aim should be to encourage the exchange of ideas and information between like-minded people and organizations so that we can support each other’s efforts. We should also strengthen U.S.-European parliamentary links where the subject of human rights could be discussed. This is of particular importance in view of the European Community’s plan to hold direct elections to the European Parliament in 1978. The CU exchange program should support this as one of its primary objectives.

It has been our experience that when we coordinate a particular policy with our European allies we not only get their support, but we are often able to project a common policy. For example, NATO is the forum where we have coordinated western CSCE strategy including Basket III initiatives.5 There is another forum where we could pursue a common human rights policy—the OECD. It is an organization comprising most of the western industrial world plus Japan where we now coordinate aid to LDCs and carry on the North-South dialogue. At a forthcoming OECD ministerial meeting, the U.S. will propose further cooperation on member-states’ unemployment policies—a subject which impacts on human rights.

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The following projects for East Asian countries merit special attention.

Philippines—The major human rights issue in the Philippines involves political detainees. The Mission’s basic tool so far has been quiet but firm diplomacy, avoiding high profile public dialogue in favor of subtle but unequivocal pressure. The post has a program scheduled on the legal aspects of human rights and will follow-up with speakers, films and press items. Here again the key to programming is to avoid preaching and to depict candidly both the successes and failures of the U.S. efforts to protect human rights.

Indonesia—As in the Philippines, the major concern is political detainees. The post will continue to follow a low profile approach while discussing the issues with influential contacts and disseminating the statements of U.S. officials. It will also organize meetings and seminars for American experts who can underscore the fundamental strength of our commitment to civil liberties.

The following specific USIS programs and supporting actions are planned:

—Preparation of background papers by Embassy and USIS officers for press and electronic media representatives on the future thrust of US foreign policy. These will emphasize human rights as a key element in our policy.

—Developing library collections for “outreach” programming, documenting the fundamental concern Americans have for human rights, as well as the successes and failures of our efforts.

Korea—One of this post’s major program objectives addresses the human rights issue. Seminars and discussion programs planned under this objective will seek understanding of how American values are formed and expressed and establish a dialogue with Koreans on common values. ROKG sensitivities and policy guidance by the Mission will be taken into account in program planning.

U.S. concerns and pronouncements on this issue will be fully reflected in VOA Korean language broadcasts. The post will publicize such programs with the primary audience in advance of the broadcasts. Similar programs will be made available for broadcast through the U.S. Armed Forces radio stations, which have a substantial Korean listenership.

Because there are definite limits within the ROK to a full discussion of U.S. concerns on this issue, consideration will be given to organizing special seminars or symposia in the United States to which key Koreans will be invited to participate. This approach will only be effective if the scope of discussion is not confined to the problems of one [Page 188] country. Multi-country participation and a broad-gauged discussion of the issues are more likely to improve understanding of the U.S. position.


Countries in this area have such varying perceptions of human rights that both the frequency and type of program approach must be tailored to each country. For example, a wide range of programs about human rights for diverse audiences would be fruitful in India, but only carefully chosen programs involving outstanding experts before small, selected audiences are acceptable in Iran. On the other hand, in Algeria, programming opportunities are rare, and even then limited to subjects related to economic or social rights.

In Iran the recent human rights dialogue between U.S. political analyst Ben J. Wattenberg and Iranian government officials apparently struck a positive chord. However, this type of programming may not be as well received by similar audiences in other NEA countries.

Examples of specific program proposals for this area are:

—expansion of USIA’s book programs to include outstanding works (foreign and domestic including translations) on human rights subjects;

—expansion of CU’s International Visitor program to involve more human rights activists; foreign journalists’ tours of the U.S. organized around human rights themes;

—more speaker and seminar programs focused on salient aspects of human rights that have relevance in specific countries or groups of countries in this geographic area.

c. Proposals for using the Voice of America, the Press Service (IPS) and other functional arms of the Agency to increase popular attention to human rights.

Agency print, radio and film/videotape will continue to report official policies, statements and other activities of Administration officials and members of Congress to overseas audiences. The Agency’s media services will also increase coverage of national and international human rights events such as the signing of the American Convention on Human Rights, U.N. Human Rights Day and the CSCE meetings in Belgrade.

Agency media will also report on private domestic and international organizations which monitor and advocate human rights (Amnesty International, ACLU, NAACP, etc.), as well as statements and activities by prominent American scholars, writers and scientists. Examples of this are the recent protests by the National Academy of Science over the arrest and torture of a group of physicists in Uruguay, [Page 189] and protests by Saul Bellow and Arthur Miller concerning the harsh treatment of writers in many countries for their human rights stand.

The Voice of America will produce a series honoring human rights statesmen and stateswomen in American history. Included will be Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes; Charles Houston, the late black lawyer and leader in the civil rights struggle; Eleanor Roosevelt, Ralph Bunche and others. Such programs will illustrate the historical basis of human rights in the U.S. The Voice will produce a “VOA Forum Series” of twenty half-hour programs treating human rights. Examples of program themes will be important Supreme Court decisions dealing with human rights and the concept of due process in the 14th amendment. Prominent jurists and civil rights activists will be featured speakers for the Forum series. The Voice will also schedule prominent American and foreign speakers for interviews and panel programs.

The Press and Publications Service (IPS) will commission articles and acquire byliners by American and non-American scholars on the origins and record of human rights in the United States. IPS will produce an illustrated pamphlet on the origins and development of human rights in the U.S.

Special articles on human rights will be placed in Agency publications such as Problems of Communism, Horizons, Dialogue, Economic Impact, and Economic Portfolio. The March–April 1977 issue of Problems of Communism featured a review-essay of six books entitled “Détente and Soviet Dissidents” by Sovietologist Harvey Fireside.

Problems of Communism has developed a distinguished world-wide reputation. We will consider initiating a new publication, perhaps to be entitled Problems of Democracy, which could afford distinguished American—and foreign—political philosophers, politicians, humanitarians a forum in which to explore the ideas, values and processes which lie beneath both liberty and democracy.

For selected audiences, the Agency’s Film and Television Service (IMV) will continue videotape coverage of official statements. It will acquire commercial films and videotapes, feature films, network specials and documentaries. Examples of acquired commercial productions are the two recent NBC programs on human rights—the recent Soviet-American debate at Georgetown University6 and the documentary on the Belgrade CSCE meeting. For more general television audiences, the [Page 190] Agency will increase output on human rights subjects in its current newsclip service and in its regular TV series which are seen on several hundred foreign stations. The Agency will also cooperate with foreign television broadcast companies sending production teams to the U.S. to make programs about human rights.

In the exhibits field, the Agency will highlight salient passages of the Secretary of State’s April 30 speech,7 including human rights statements by prominent American and foreign advocates of human rights.

The Agency will support multi-regional International Visitor programs, bringing human rights advocates from a number of countries together with their American counterparts. The Agency will compile a directory of American and international human rights organizations for use by the posts in providing orientation to prospective international visitors. The concept of multi-regional international visitor programs might, as suggested earlier, be expanded to the level of an International Human Rights Conference to be held in late 1978 or 1979. Such a meeting would bring together some 200–300 human rights advocates from around the world and would provide a very visible focal point for the subject.

d. Proposals for coordinating the public diplomacy dimension of human rights issues with other relevant foreign affairs agencies, particularly AID, D/HA and CU.

We propose that the Agency’s Human Rights Advisor serve as our primary liaison with the Department’s Human Rights Coordinator’s (D/HA) staff. In this capacity he would be a participant in cooperative human rights public diplomacy efforts with members of the Department, AID and other agencies. Currently the Agency’s Human Rights Advisor is actively involved in cooperative projects resulting from attendance at weekly meetings of Department regional and functional bureau human rights officers.

e. Formal structure within USIA

The Deputy Director will be the interim USIA representative on the Department’s Human Rights Coordinating Group (HRCG). The Department may also wish to consider having Mr. Bray serve as the public affairs advisor to the HRCG. In this capacity he could suggest public affairs approaches as U.S. human rights policies and actions develop.

A USIA ad hoc Human Rights Coordinating Committee has been established to provide information policy guidance and review Agency human rights programming to ensure that the Agency’s effort is on [Page 191] target. The committee is a “working level” group which is chaired by the Human Rights Advisor who reports to the Deputy Director.

f. Steps USIA has already taken to achieve human rights objectives.

Human rights is a primary theme and prominent feature of Agency programs.

All Agency communications media are being used to present the Administration’s human rights policies to overseas audiences. Radio has been the primary direct channel to audiences, particularly in closed or authoritarian societies, where local media are controlled and where human rights problems are usually most acute.

In the early months of the new Administration, the Voice of America gave extensive coverage (news analyses, features and editorials) to statements by the President and other Administration officials which emphasized the heightened importance of human rights in U.S. foreign policy.

Congressman Dante Fascell, Chairman, Joint Legislative-Executive Commission on CSCE, was interviewed in December on VOA’s “Press Conference-USA.” Human rights provisions of the CSCE Helsinki Final Act was a primary subject of this interview.

In the field of television placement the Agency has provided extensive coverage of official USG statements, speeches and comments on human rights and its role in U.S. foreign policy. Since President Carter’s inauguration 18 different videotapes on human rights subjects have been made available to posts. Examples are:

—Secretary Vance’s April 30 human rights policy speech before the University of Georgia Law School;

—President Carter’s March 17 UN speech;8 his April 14 Organization of American States speech9 and the recent speech at the University of Notre Dame;10

—interview by U.S. and European journalists on April 30 with Congressman Fascell;

US human rights policy interview with Ms. Patricia M. Derian, Coordinator, Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs (D/HA).

The Agency overseas speakers program incorporates U.S. and international human rights subjects by selected speakers. For example, Allard Lowenstein, head of the U.S. delegation to the recent UN Human Rights Commission, was programmed recently in five European cities where he discussed U.S. human rights policy before selected [Page 192] audiences. Mr. Lowenstein received extensive and favorable media coverage in each of the capitals he visited.

Special information kits and background papers have been provided to all posts. The kits highlight press treatment of the Administration’s emphasis on human rights and provide texts of the UN Charter relevant to human rights as well as copies of human rights covenants and conventions. The background papers present information and guidance on human rights provisions of U.S. security assistance legislation and the role of human rights in U.S. foreign policy.

  1. Source: Department of State, Bureau of Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs, 1980 Human Rights Subject Files, Lot 82D180, IAGHRFA—History & Organization. Confidential. Reinhardt did not initial the memorandum.
  2. A copy of Christopher’s May 30 memorandum to Reinhardt is in the National Archives, RG 59, Office of the Deputy Secretary: Records of Warren Christopher, 1977–1980, Lot 81D113, Box 23, Human Rights—PRM I. See footnote 1, Document 52.
  3. Attached but not printed is a June 17 covering memorandum from Bray to USIS principal posts, presumably used to transmit copies of the USIA human rights action plan.
  4. Confidential.
  5. See footnote 14, Document 4.
  6. The NBC News Soviet debate special, moderated by Edwin Newman, was telecast live from Georgetown University and featured three Soviet citizens debating Robert G. Kaiser of The Washington Post, Professor Alan M. Dershowitz of the Harvard University Law School, and Reverend Theodore Hesburgh. (John Carmody, “The TV Column,” The Washington Post, May 27, 1977, p. D–8 and “Late TV Information,” The Washington Post, June 12, 1977, p. 102)
  7. See Document 39.
  8. See Document 26.
  9. See footnote 40, Document 29.
  10. See footnote 2, Document 51.