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
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.
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.