WASHINGTON (Jun. 15)
Whether the detention in Moscow of Los Angeles Times correspondent Robert Toth is connected with the treason trial of Anatoly Sharansky was raised at the State Department yesterday. Another, but wider question was whether the harassment and Soviet public criticism of Western correspondents in recent months are employed to inhibit them from continuing to report on the continuing difficulties of Soviet dissidents and Jews who wish to emigrate to Israel.
Toth is being prevented from leaving Moscow by Soviet authorities on charges of receiving illicit documents. He was about to return to the United States with his family this past weekend after completing his tour in Moscow as a correspondent. Two U.S. official protests have been lodged with the Soviet government. (According to reports from Moscow this morning, Toth told reporters after his latest session by the KGB that the questioning had concentrated on his contacts with Sharansky.)
State Department spokesman John Trattner refused to discuss what is motivating the Soviet government to prevent Toth’s departure. However, when the Jewish Telegraphic Agency asked what other correspondents are being harassed and when their harassment began, Trattner point out the Americans involved. He noted Associated Press reporter George Primsky was expelled and Americans named in the Soviet press for “improper activities” include Peter Onos, Washington Post; Christopher Wren and Hedrick Smith, both of The New York Times; James Wallace of U.S. News and World Report and Alfred Friendly of Newsweek.
These newsmen have reported extensively on the Jewish situation in the Soviet Union. Smith was a speaker at the conference held here by the National Conference on Soviet Jewry. Trattner said that he did not know whether the State Department would receive Sharansky’s wife who is here to obtain U.S. support for his release.