Saturday, March 25, 2006

"to be stuck inside of Beijing with the D.C. blues again..."

"Kafka would have loved a day like this," to paraphrase a line from a contemporary American poet...

You may recall reports, a few weeks ago, about the pending release of Chinese journalist, Zhao Yan, who has been detained, in Beijing, for the past 18 months on charges of divulging state secrets. Mr. Zhao is on the Beijing bureau of the New York Times, and in a NYT editorial yesterday, it was revealed that he "remains languishing in a Beijing jail." The editorial discloses something else of import, namely that the "state secret," in question, was an assertion, in his NYT article, that then president Jiang Zemin might retire.

As yesterday's editorial suggests, the release of information of that nature should never be grounds for imprisoning a journalist anywhere, under any circumstances and, by extension, informing the public about a clandestine government operation that uses electronic surveillance, and wire tapping, is not justification for calling editors, reporters, and newspaper publishers, in this country, before a federal grand jury, and having theirconfidential notes, records, e-mails confiscated. The principle of "classified information" is not the province of the military alone. When we divest those who gather the news of their right to guarantee privacy to their sources, and indict reporters for refusing to compromise that privacy, we jeopardize the foundation upon which an independent press was built.

It is imperative that all who believe in the future of an autonomous vehicle for releasing unbiased, tamper-free information speak up for the immediate release of Zhao Yan in China, as well as for censure and condemnation of all those, in this country, who are working to bring Beijing to Washington, D.C. We must not stand by idly, and tolerate frivolous grand jury subpoenas of journalists, and their records, any more than we can tolerate the jailing of journalists in China.

What better time to remind you, too, that Writers-at-Large will be having a forum, "Writers of the Storm: Fake News, and Public Decency, in the Age of Terror," dealing with the issue of a free press, in America, neutering of the news, as well as censorship on the evening of Tuesday, March 28th at The New School, Lang Center, 55 West 13th Street, second floor, (between 5th and 6th Avenues). The keynote address will be given by Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for The New York Times, David Cay Johnston, and the moderator will be Terrence McNally. Panelists include: Danny Goldberg, Anne Waldman, Paul Robeson, Jr., Arthur Kopit, Bob Hershon, and Phil Rockstroh. I will be hosting. Call The New School box office at: (212) 229-5488 to reserve your seats. See you there!