Date: Sun, 23 Jan 2000 20:07:32 -0500
From: Eileen Sutton <

Dear Free-Speech Lovers,

As many of you know, censorship at Pacifica Radio has, since the KPFA crisis last Spring, become a way of life.  And the "reassignment" of Pacifica Network News director Dan Coughlin this past November was, for many, the last straw.  Pacifica Foundation chair Mary Frances Berry also heads the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, though it's clear her vision of civil rights does not extend to press freedoms.  Pacifica has a cancer of censorship growing within that we intend to purge.

To fight Pacifica's rightward and authoritarian drift, the national and international stringers and contributors to Pacifica Network News--PNN--have decided to act, and are threatening to strike the national news on January 31st for 3 months if several demands are not met.  Dozens of reporters have already signed on from across the Americas, Asia and Europe, and our current strike list comprises the majority of regular contributors to the national-news broadcast. (This action in no way affects the local-news division at each sister station.)

Tomorrow, we are sending our demands to management.  This will be ganged with a massive media push.  Hundreds of press releases are going out across the country to print and radio reporters, web sites, community groups, academics, free-speech institutions, progressive writers, unions, etc.  We are asking for support at every level, and we are asking those who give interviews to Pacifica to consider boycotting the network news as well.

We've set up an on-line press kit at "" for reporters and anyone interested in learning more about the action. There you'll find our press release, our letter to management, a Chronology of Censorship, several salient articles including an outstanding Salon piece on Mary Frances Berry, artwork, etc.  Most recently Frank Ahrens of the Washington Post described Pacifica sister-station WPFW in Washington as the most censorious in the network, and his comments could not have come at a better time.

We are trying desperately to save Pacifica.  Opinions vary about the fate, and the state, of the network.  Some feel the forces within Pacifica who seek to neuter it's progressive voice have the upper hand and will ultimately prevail.  Others feel Pacifica management is, despite its bravado, vulnerable, and that this strike action comes at an excellent time, and will give activists and journalists who are fighting for the network a place to focus their energies.

If we can educate the mainstream press about what's really happening at "free-speech radio" we believe there's a fighting chance.  The struggle to preserve the country's oldest community-sponsored, non-commercial media institution is not merely a labor struggle, as management would have us believe.  The public needs to know that the fight for this network is historic, especially within the context of gargantuan corporate media mergers which result in the strangulation of free, unimpeded access to news and information.  We hope to build a tidal wave of support for this action, while renaming this crisis. Management says labor struggle.  We say CENSORSHIP.  Management says internal matters. We say CENSORSHIP.  Management tries to gag us, we say CENSORSHIP.

What can you do?  Spread the word.  Check out the web site.  We are setting up a strike fund to support those free-lance reporters who earn a lot from Pacifica and who will be sacrificing that income. Even a $5 donation to the strike fund is appreciated.  Please take a moment to circulate and/or send our Affinity Letter to Mary Frances Berry.  This will be available on the web site as of January 31st, when the strike is scheduled to begin.  There is also talk of striking reporters filing stories on-line and producing alternative broadcasts for Pacifica
affiliates.  The possibilities are endless...

A small group here in New York has begun to brainstorm as to how to involve the New York activist community (forums?  demos?  parades?) and your ideas are most welcome.  Please leave us a voice mail at (212) 439-8087, or write to us at

We are striking to fight censorship.  Front and center.  Management has tried desperately to keep this issue out of the national Pacifica debate, but as of this strike action, that particular black-out is officially over.

Please treat yourself to the comments of Daniel Ellsberg below.  We thank you for your interest, and welcome your support.

Eileen Sutton
Pacifica Reporters Against Censorship
(212) 439-8087


Daniel Ellsberg's KPFA Interview Discussing Censorship at Pacifica

"The present management of Pacifica seems to me entirely unsuited to running not only KPFA of all things, but really any media outlet. They would seem entirely inappropriate [to be running] NPR or NBC or CBS. They should have nothing to do with journalism.

"Mary Frances Berry, I read in the papers, has a distinguished background in connection with human rights and civil rights and South Africa and sexism and racism. This would seem to be an inglorious chapter in her career. At every stage of this thing she seems to believe in human rights so long as people donít challenge her authority. She believes in the rights of employees who obey orders. Nothing could be less suited to a listener supported organ of free expression like KPFA.

"The people at Pacifica who defy the orders to use their own news judgment in reporting the news. and who
were fired for it, did exactly what they should have done. The orders were wrong. The orders were absurd.
To censor from a news program on an unusually free and reliable news service, to censor from that news what
was front page news on both San Francisco newspapers is absurd. And that was an order that should have been disobeyed and the people who -- in the best traditions of journalism -- chose to defy that and to tell us
what we needed to know . . . should not suffer for that. So long as theyíre off the air weíre suffering. We the listeners who depend on them are suffering and itís up to us to correct that."//

Anatomy of a Heist
Audio Files
Legal Action