4. PRO CONTRA MEDIA COVERAGE -- PAID FOR BY THE CIA

According to Edgar Chamorro, former head of the contra communications office, "approximately 15 Honduran journalists and broadcasters were on the CIA payroll and our influence was thereby extended to every major Honduran newspaper and television station." In his affidavit submitted to the World Court in September, 1985, Chamorro also said that the same tactic was employed by the CIA in Costa Rica in an effort to turn the newspapers and television stations of that country against the Nicaraguan government.

Carlos Morales, a Costa Rican professor of journalism and editor of the University of Costa Rica's liberal weekly LA UNIVERSIDAD, said that at least eight Costa Rican journalists, including three "top editors," receive monthly payments from the CIA, either directly or through contra groups with offices in Costa Rica.

In 1977, after a Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report disclosed that the CIA had maintained working relationships with 50 American reporters over a period of years, the agency announced new rules that barred it from entering into "any paid or contractual relationship" with U.S. journalists, including free lancers and stringers.

However, the regulations said nothing about entering into such relationships with foreign journalists, or about allowing agency operatives to pose as foreign journalists. It now appears that the agency is doing both, thereby jeopardizing press credibility.

Morales said he began investigating press payoffs after a former student confessed to him that he was taking money from the CIA to supplement a meager salary. The eight journalists are each paid 30,000 colones (about $500) a month by the CIA, Morales said. The monthly salary of most journalists in Costa Rica is about 20,000 colones.

A fund for bribing journalists also was maintained by the largest contra group, the Nicaraguan Democratic Force (FDN). In his affidavit, Chamorro said he had been paymaster and had received money from the CIA to bribe Honduran journalists and broadcasters to write and speak favorably about the FDN and to attack the government of Nicaragua and call for its overthrow.

SOURCES:

COVERT ACTION, Summer/86; COLUMBIA JOURNALISM REVIEW, March/April 1987, "Contra coverage -- paid for by the CIA," by Martha Honey, pp 31-32.