The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers, Digital Edition > My Day
My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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NEW YORK, Friday—I returned to New York City last night just in time to have my grandson and his wife to dinner with me and to go to see "Season in the Sun." Nancy Kelly is the star and very charming, but for me the children in the play were the greatest attraction. The little girl certainly deserved to be spanked and in real life I probably would have spanked her. But on the stage she was enchanting. As we walked out of the theatre my grandchildren said: "That rat story was the best thing in the show." If you want to laugh this is certainly a "must" on a nice summer evening.

Coming back on the train from Hartford in the afternoon I had time to read some things that I have been carrying in my brief case for a long time.

One was Carroll Binder's speech at the convention of the American Society of Newspaper Editors on April 21. Mr. Binder spoke on the Freedom of Information Covenant, which the General Assembly last year said a special committee of 15 nations was to try to write.

Many things that he said about the work on that document are applicable to the attitude of a group of nations on some other subjects as well. This covenant, if written as the present majority wishes it to be written, will be restrictive of freedom of the press. It will impose censorship on nations such as the United States and the United Kingdom which have a free press and the means to gather news in all parts of the world.

This would be based on much the same excuse that Prime Minister Nehru uses in India, namely, that the press must not be permitted to cause difficulties for the government. Since much of our press has written unpleasant things that some of these countries have found hard to take, whether they are true or not, the aim is that we must be restricted. Those seeking such restrictions would cloak these excuses, of course, under the guise that these are things that bring about ill feeling among nations, and they would call our press a warmongering press.

Mr. Binder said, however, that the minute you put restrictions on ideas or on the interchange of ideas through a government agency, you run the risk of setting up in government a censorship that sooner or later does away with freedom.

It is quite true that if this covenant is written we will not accept it and it will not have any validity within the United States. It will restrict information to and from other parts of the world, however, and that flow in the present period of history is necessary.

We cannot say that our press has been perfect. There have been abuses and we should make every effort to correct them. The news should be reported accurately and impartially and news gatherers should have a keen sense of responsibility in the foreign field. But the harm that can be done by censorship seems to me greater than the harm that could be done by a few people who do not have that high sense of responsibility and integrity. On the whole, the job being done by American newspapermen throughout the world is a remarkably fine one and I would hate to see it impaired.

I hope everybody is reading Secretary Acheson's testimony with care. I think that day by day he has proved that we have a Secretary of State whose keen mind and integrity have steered us with remarkable success through a period of constant change. Great flexibility has been necessary; caution and courage have been vital. After this hearing I think there will be less of the foolish talk that for political purposes has tried to stir up ill will toward a valuable public servant.

E. R.


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About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, June 9, 1951

Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
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Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project The George Washington University 312 Academic Building 2100 Foxhall Road, NW Washington, DC 20007

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Transcription created from a photocopy of a UFS wire copy of a My Day column instance archived at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library.