Remembering Pacifica’s history of censorship

Upon hearing about the new gag rule, listener Barbara Fitzpatrick wrote to Engelhardt, “You have to be kidding, have you no sense of history? Or for that matter any notion of decency, or appreciation of all those who struggled ten years ago? This is Pacifica, not Clear Channel. The hypocrisy of management at this time is disgusting.  Just leave, you are not going to win.”

Pacifica last tried to silence reporting of developments in the network back in 1999, when it fired radio hosts Larry Bensky and Robbie Osman, among others, for speaking out on-air about Pacifica matters. The network also fired its national news director Dan Coughlin and tried to censor Amy Goodman‘s Democracy Now! for their reports on Pacifica. That provoked a nationwide movement to return the network to its mission, including an historic strike of Pacifica’s freelancers that resulted in the creation of Free Speech Radio News.

Pacifica’s national board voted unanimously to “end censorship of any programming throughout the network” when it settled the strike of its freelance contributors in 2002.  Pacifica even has a page about this proud history on its website.

Management’s current undermining of editorial independence runs counter to KPFA’s own long-standing news policy, which states the News will report “on matters regarding KPFA, Pacifica, its personnel or Board of Directors with the same vigor and candor as it would report on other institutions or individuals.”

Attacks on KPFA journalists also have come from a group of board members affiliated with Tracy Rosenberg. KPFA’s own local station board passed a resolution in March 2010 defending KPFA journalists’ rights to cover internal issues with “the same editorial autonomy they enjoy when reporting on external issues.” The vote was 14-7, and the 7 voting against were aligned with Rosenberg’s board faction — the group at Pacifica national that hired and now protects Arlene Engelhardt.