As I prepare to start my new job as President and CEO of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/FL), an organization which contributed greatly to the peaceful fall of communism in East Central Europe and in the former Soviet Union and continues today to counter censorship, propaganda and disinformation with outstanding journalism, I’m re-reading books on U.S. international broadcasting history published by former journalists, broadcasters and media managers. In one of them by Charles A. H. Thomson, which I found with the help of a former Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) member, there is this quote about the importance of free press from famous American poet, essayist, journalist, editor and government official Archibald MacLeish.
In Mr. MacLeish’s words: “… The right to a free press–the right of the people to read and hear and therefore to think as they please–is, I deeply believe, the basic right upon which freedom rests. Freedom of exchange of information between the peoples of the world is the extension into international relations of the basic democratic right of freedom of the press. Belief in the freedom of exchange of information rests upon the conviction that if the peoples of the world know the facts about each other, peace will be maintained, since peace is the common hope and the common cause of the people everywhere.” (1944)
During World War II MacLeish served as director of the War Department’s Office of Facts and Figures and as the assistant director of the Office of War Information (OWI) in which Voice of America (VOA) radio broadcasts originated. He also spent a year as the Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs and a further year representing the U.S. at the creation of UNESCO.