WASHINGTON (Feb. 14)
The American Civil Liberties Union today protested to Secretary of State Dean Rusk against the barring of the Washington correspondent of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Milton Friedman, from a press briefing conducted by the Near Eastern Division of the State Department on the Arab refugee issue.
Declaring that the ACLU is “gravely disturbed” over this act, and that the organization considers the exclusion of the JTA correspondent from the briefing “a clear violation of freedom of the press in which the State Department, or any other agency of our government, has no business being involved, John de J. Pemberton, Jr., executive director of ACLU, said in the letter of protest:
“The treatment of Mr. Friedman would appear to be outright discrimination, based on the things he has written. The statement that the State Department considered Mr. Friedman’s writings unfriendly to the Department’s policies, or that his attendance at the briefing was not welcome because his articles were sometimes used by the Israeli Government, only heightens the abuse. If this theory was carried to its logical conclusion, the State Department might exclude all reporters whose articles did not conform with the Department’s standards.
“The freedom of the press to criticize government policy was a fundamental reason for the creation of the First Amendment. Only through such criticism can the public be informed about government operations and given the opportunity to comment about policies under which our country is governed. Any road block placed in the way of the press to fulfill this vital function should be immediately removed. We urge that whatever ban has been imposed on Mr. Friedman be immediately lifted,” the ACLU letter stated.
TEXAS SENATOR PROTESTS TO STATE DEPARTMENT; ASKS FOR COMMENT
Democratic Senator Ralph W. Yarborough, of Texas, has called on the State Department’s director of Near Eastern Affairs, Robert C, Strong, to give “fair treatment at future press conferences by the Department of State” to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. The Senator’s request was contained in a letter made public today.
The Texas lawmaker said he was acting following the receipt of a letter of protest from Jimmy Wisch, editor and publisher of “The Texas Jewish Post,” of Dallas, who asked the Senator to “convey to the State Department the importance of making certain that the future press conferences given by Mr. Strong will not be used as a reprisal against Mr. Friedman of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.” Mr. Wisch pointed out that “the Texas Jewish Post covers the Washington scene weekly for all citizens of our great state” and expressed the hope that his newspaper “can continue this coverage under the full guarantees of the freedom of the press.”
In his letter to Mr. Strong, Sen, Yarborough asked for the State Department officer’s “comments on this matter,” and urged corrective measures so that the newspaper “will be at all times represented in news coverage at the Department of State.” Copies of San. Yarborough’s correspondence were also sent to Congressman John E. Moss, California Democrat, who is chairman of a special subcommittee on government information.
Similar letters of protest from English-Jewish newspapers across the country have been received by other members of Congress who reportedly are planning formal protests and inquiries at the Department over the incident.