12. THE GRENADA INVASION -- A CLASSIC CASE OF CENSORSHIP

The U.S invasion of Grenada provides a case study of governmental censorship which saw the American people misinformed or denied information before, during, and after the invasion.

BEFORE: In March, 1983, President Ronald Reagan, in a television address, warned the American people about a military airport being built by Cuba in Grenada. To support his warning, he displayed sinister looking satellite photographs of the airport. Tiny Grenada was pictured as a threat to U.S. security. In truth, the airport was being built to international civil aviation standards by Plessey Airports, of Great Britain, and was designed for tourism. In an interview on National Public Radio, Derek Collier, managing director of Plessey, in London, totally ridiculed the idea that it was a military airport.

DURING: For the first time in history, the U.S. government denied press access to a major U.S. military armed conflict. It literally censored all news about the invasion for more than 48 hours. One foreign journalist reported "We have just seen the end of 200 years of press freedom in the United States."

AFTER: After the press departed the island, leaving it under U.S. military rule, the American Civil Liberties Union complained to President Reagan about the detention and political interrogation of Grenadians, including civilians. Civilians reportedly were rounded up, detained, and questioned about their political views and associations. Foreigners, including at least one American woman who had been teaching there since 1980, were expelled from the country for no apparent reason other than their political views.

Ron Dorfman, editor of the Quill, published by the Society of Professional Journalists, later was to describe the invasion of Grenada as a "mammoth expedition and it came as no surprise to the Grenadians, the Cubans, or anyone concerned except the American public and the press.

Grenada, possibly already forgotten by some Americans, will go into the history books as a classic example of governmental censorship in a free and democratic society.

SOURCES:

COMMON CAUSE, November 1983, "Should the Government have Banned the Media from Grenada?;" NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO, 11/4/83, "All Things Considered; ACLU Letter to President Reagan, 11/15/83, by Ira Glasser; QUILL, "Bringing the War Back Home," by Ron Dorfman.