Page images
[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]


Our objectives in providing communications assistance are:

1. To assist developing nations expand their capacity to utilize effectively communications technology to meet basic human needs objectives.

2. To help developing nations strengthen indigenous communication and information systems.

3. To strengthen the ties between communications leaders and institutions in the United States and their counterparts abroad.

4. To expand foreign markets for U.S. communications expertise and products.

5. To demonstrate to developing nations the potential benefits of satellite communications.

6. To speed the modernization of communications structure in developing countries, and thus relieve the pressure on crowed radio frequency bands important to the United States.

7. To enlist the aid of other industrialized countries in the overall effort to help developing countries meet their communications needs.




This report, submitted to the Congress pursuant to section 603 of Public Law 95-426, the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, Fiscal Year 1979, describes U.S. Government efforts internationally to safeguard the rights of journalists. The principal focus of this effort was our preparation for and participation in the recent UNESCO General Conference which adopted by consensus a mass media declaration affirming that "journalists must have freedom to report and the fullest. possible facilities of access to information." Based upon the mass media declaration, the Department of State also made a concerted effort with individual foreign nations worldwide to convey U.S. concerns with interference with the rights of journalists.


On the Final Day of the UNESCO General Conference (GC) 20th Session, the U.S. Delegation joined in consensus adoption of a declaration on the media's contribution to peace and understanding, promotion of human rights and countering racism, apartheid, and incitement to war. The text as adopted represented a remarkable turnaround from earlier versions. It not only removed those clauses calling for state control of the media, but added others guaranteeing freedom of information as essential to human rights and the right of journalists to freely report the news, as in Article II: (See Annex for full text)

"1. The exercise of freedom of opinion, expression and information, recognized as an integral part of human rights and fundamental freedoms, is a vital factor in the strengthening of peace and international understanding.

"2. Access by the public to information should be guaranteed by the diversity of the sources and means of information available to it, thus enabling each individual to check the accuracy of facts and to appraise events objectively. To this end, journalists must have freedom to report and the fullest possible facilities of access to information. Similarly, it is important that the mass media be responsive to concerns of peoples and individuals, thus promoting the participation of the public in the elaboration of information.

"3. With a view to the strengthening of peace and international understanding, to promoting human rights and to countering racialism, apartheid and incitement to war, the mass media throughout the world, by reason of their role, contribute effectively to promoting human rights, in particular by giving expression to oppressed peoples

who struggle against colonialism, neo-colonialism, foreign occupation and all forms of racial discrimination and oppression and who are unable to make their voices heard within their own territories."

The original draft of the UNESCO Declaration on Mass Media Principles which was on the agenda of the 20th session of the General Conference (Paris, October 24-November 28) posed a serious threat to global journalistic freedom. The draft was the outgrowth of 1972 Soviet-sponsored resolution which had sought to "use" the media to promote peace and international understanding and to fight against war propaganda and racism. The idea of using the media as a tool of official policy implied the authority of the state or international community over the media and thus undermined the entire principle of press freedom and independence.

The draft declaration had gone through several versions over the years, all of them unacceptable to the United States and others that valued freedom of expression. (The item had been postponed in the 18th and 19th sessions of the General Conference.) A new text which had been drafted for the 20th session was likewise unacceptable.

Although the declaration would be non-binding upon Member States, we feared that endorsement of such a document by one of the United Nations' specialized agencies would give encouragement to those countries inclined to impose restrictions on journalistic freedom and thus set the stage for legitimizing such restrictions. The principal U.S. objections which were spelled out were:

-The draft declaration explicitly endorsed state control of the media, including informational content:

-Several rights enumerated in the draft were conditioned upon adherence to certain standards of practices;

-Several provisions supported the view that the media should not distribute dissenting views on certain subjects;

-Insufficient weight was devoted to the value of competing and critical information;

-Insufficient attention was given to the duties of states to protect and facilitate the free flow of information;

-It suggested that duties and responsibilities can or should be imposed on the mass media and journalists.


Prior to the 1976 General Conference in Nairobi, the Department of State in cooperation with the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO had established a working relationship with key members of the U.S. media community in order to coordinate positions and strategy for confronting the challenge that this issue represented. This effort was expanded and strengthened after Nairobi and a close partnership developed, involving not only frequent contacts with Department officers but periodic meetings with the Secretary of State and the Deputy Secretary on substantive policy questions. These consultations led to the nomination of a prominent publisher, recommended by the media community, to the UNESCO General Conference Delegation.


Early in 1978, the Department learned that Director General M'Bow was studying a revised text which had been prepared pursuant to the mandate of the 19th General Conference in Nairobi, namely, to continue consultations on the mass media draft declaration with a view to producing a text "which could meet with the largest possible measure of agreement." The Department reviewed the text and, in consultation with key persons in the media and Congress, concluded that it, like all its predecessors, was unacceptable. This view, including a detailed legal analysis, was conveyed to the Director General.

The Department invited Director General M'Bow for his first official visit to the United States in July, and made it abundantly clear that the mass media draft declaration and the threat it posed to journalistic freedom was the chief U.S. concern with respect to the forthcoming General Conference.

Nevertheless the draft text issued by the Director General after his visit was a disappointment. The Department promptly conveyed its objections in writing to Director General M'Bow and recalled that his mandate from the previous General Conference was the pursuit of consensus (as opposed to a yes/no vote, which we believed would result in adoption of a declaration containing restrictions on press freedom.)


Negotiations at the UNESCO General Conference successfully. amended the controversial draft text which had stirred such widespread opposition since it was issued by the Director General on August 21.

The United States was in the vanguard of nations (mostly Western democracies and some developing countries) determined to prevent its adoption, on grounds that it would sanction state authority over the media and erode the principle of press freedom worldwide. The product of the negotiations was a text not only stripped of language implying state authority over the mass media, but which also included positive language on freedom of information. Instead of imposing duties and responsibilities upon journalists, as various drafts attempted, it proclaimed that they must have freedom to report and the fullest possible facilities of access to information and be assured of protection guaranteeing them the best conditions for the exercise. of their profession. It recognized that the exercise of freedom of opinion, expression and information is an integral part of human rights and fundamental freedoms, and it asserted the public's right of access to information through a diversity of sources. It charged states with the responsibility of providing favorable conditions for the operation of the mass media. It affirmed the necessity to help the developing countries overcome their handicaps in communication development as a means of helping correct the "information imbalance" worldwide.


While technically the UNESCO Declaration is a statement of principle and not a document binding on member states, it is significant



that it was adopted by all 146 UNESCO members by consensus. It thus represents a consensus among virtually the entire world community. The fact that the Declaration specifically points out the necessity for governments to respect the rights of journalists makes it an excellent vehicle for conveying U.S. concerns over conditions in a number of countries which restrict the full exercise of journalism, both for domestic and foreign journalists.

Based on the Declaration, the State Department dispatched a circular cable to all posts, specifying representations to be made based on the UNESCO Declaration. This had, in addition to voicing our strong objections to mistreatment and/or restriction of foreign journalists, the added benefit of (a) approving the global application of the principles in the UNESCO Declaration and (b) reiterating the longstanding U.S. commitment to press freedom.

Instructions to posts were issued only after the conclusion of the General Conference of UNESCO and a United Nations General Assembly debate on information issues in general-where it was thought the debate over Agenda Item 77 ("Information Items") might generate additional discussions of related topics bearing on the question of journalists' rights. However, as the General Assembly adjourned December 21, 1978, without having broken new ground in this regard, instructions to posts were prepared based principally on the outcome of the UNESCO General Conference, which produced the Mass Media Declaration.

For widest impact, these instructions were transmitted under the All Diplomatic Posts distribution (i.c., all U.S. Embassies worldwide). Recipient posts were divided into several categories, beginning with WEO ("Western European and Other") states. This grouping, encompassing Western Europe plus other dominantly democratic, liberal societies (Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Canada, etc.), received instructions urging the respective host governments to join the United States in reaffirming the principles of journalistic freedom embodied in the UNESCO Declaration, expressing our appreciation for the cooperation we received from WEÓ states in achieving a successful outcome on the UNESCO Declaration, and inquiring what steps they may be contemplating in furtherance of its principles.

The second group covered Eastern European posts, where the press is tightly restricted and where foreign correspondents have been subject to harassment and intimidation. Instructions to posts in this area sought to utilize two important documents: (1) the UNESCO Declaration, which was adopted by consensus vote that included all Eastern European states; and (2) the Helsinki Agreements of 1975, which likewise contained protective clauses for journalists, and to which the Eastern European states also acceded. Posts in these states were to convey the seriousness with which the United States views the obligation to protect journalists contained in these two declarations.

The third grouping of recipient posts covers the "Non-Aligned and Other" posts, encompassing the 86 members of the Non-Aligned Movement, and remaining Third World states. In this instance, instructions call for making a comprehensive list of points which spell out the rights of journalists and reaffirms the conviction of the United States as to the principles of journalistic freedom set forth in the UNESCO

« PreviousContinue »