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Agenda Turns 7 U.n. Truth Commission Confirms Agenda's Coverage Of El Salvador

Agenda Turns 7 U.n. Truth Commission Confirms Agenda's Coverage Of El Salvador image Agenda Turns 7 U.n. Truth Commission Confirms Agenda's Coverage Of El Salvador image
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EDITORIAL - Ifyou havent been reading AGENDA for the past seven years, the Ides of March may have taken you by surprise. On March 15, a United Nations Truth Commission released its report on the repression In El Salvador. It found, among other things, that Salvadoran soldiers killed four North American church women, thal Major Roberto D'Aubulsson ordered the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero and thattheU.S.-trainedAtlacatl Battalion, actlng on orders from the Salvadoran high command, killed six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter. The U.N. report also documented a disinformation campaign waged by Reagan and Bush administration officials with respect to these inciden ts in particular and the deaths of over 75,000 Salvadorans generally. The mainstream news outlets in this country quickly feigned outrage about having been lied to. National Public Radio gave one of the principal liars, former undersecretary of State for Latin American Affairs Elliott Abrams, air time tojustify his behavior. Somegovernment officials also expressed dismay. U.S. Representative Robert Torricelli (D-NJ), who heads the house subcommittee on Latin America and who repeatedly approved military ald to El Salvador on condlLion that the Reagan and Bush administrations certify human rights improvements in thatcountry, expressed his anger at having been misled. Enough of this disingenous whiningby slippery politicians and journalists. Let's toss their hlstorical re-write in the editorial trash basket That's where it belongs, along with tales of how the Nazi Holocaust never happened and analyses about how the world is flat From its first edition, AGENDA told the truth that corporate newspapers, the TV and our govemment tried to conceal. That first issue, in April 1986, featured a speech by Nobel Peace Prize lauréate Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, about liberation theology and human rights in Central America. On the front page was an editorial urging a "yes" (see AGENDA TURNS 7, page 3) (FROM PAGE ONE) vote on an Ann Arbor ballot proposal opposing U.S. lnterventlon in Nicaragua and El Salvador. Our editorial pattern was thu s set - we took a stand for positive politica! action, and we published thoughtful analysis of an important aspect of the Central America story. In over 25 articles about El Salvador, AGENDA reported the story without the mainstream media's compulsión to print government lies in the name of "objectivity." AGENDA analyzed corporate news coverage of El Salvador from early on. In our June 1986 issue Alexander Cockburn recounted the fate of former New York Times reporter Raymond Bonner, who wrote about the El Mozote massacre of hundreds of peasants: "[Bonner] actually wentup into the hllls, he actually looked at a group of guerrillas and carne to the sound investigative conclusión that they weren't Russians. But you have to be highly 'professional' for that kind of thing. His reports aroused fantastlc Indignation... and that fantastlc indignation falrly rapidly resulted in the ra ther abrupt departure of Raymond Bonner from El Salvador, charged wlth unprofessionallsmin sources." In March 1990, AGENDA published Jon Reed's account of the cover-up of the murders ofsix Jesuits, their houskeeper and her daughter at the University of Central America: "[U]nder the expert direction of White House spin doctors Cristiani and company are learning how to put a kinder and gentier mask over their bloody deeds." While AGENDA was Washtenaw County's source for the printed truth about El Salvador, national alternative journals Uke The Nation and the late Guardian also published similar accounts. Editors at major news outlets had plenty of access to the truth, had they wished to disseminate it. Because we got the story right with few resources at our disposal, we at AGENDA mlght snlcker at today's pompous proclamations by the New York Times (which censored reports by its own Raymond Bonner) or The Ann Arbor News (which ignored local activists who spoke the truth about El Salvador) but for the fact that it's no laughtng matter. People died in great numbers because newspapers and televisión in this country lacked the courage to report the truth, and lacked the integrity to cali a lie a lie. Our coverage of El Salvador was also unhampered by snobbish notions thatsome people matter and others don"t. While The Ann Arbor News and its ilk sometimes reported allegations of the Salvadoran army's more notorious crimes against church people, usuallywithequalorgreater space devoted to denials or excuses, AGENDA told of less-famous atrocities which got absolutely no coverage from the News. ín July 1986, we reported the murders which led the Celaya famlly to seek sanctuary in Ann Arbor. In September 1988, AGENDA ran the terrible story of Francisco, a Salvadoran bib le teacher who took refuge in Ann Arbor's Unitarian Universalist Church. The December 1989 issue not only correctly identified those responsible for the murders of priests, but also told of an otherwise-unreported attackatSanSalvador'scathedral.TheJanu- ary-February 1990 AGENDA featured an interview with a Salvadoran army deserter, who told of U.S. advisors' participation in massacres. In May 1990, we ran a lengthy account of the air war against Salvadoran peasants, with details of an army rocket attack that killed flve and wounded 1 7 - a story which, because the victims weren't church people or rich or famous, never saw the light of day in the mainstream press. While clichés replaced analysis elsewhere, AGENDA published solid pieces by local activists who traveled to El Salvador and speeches by famous critics like Noam Chomsky and Phillip Agee. We covered seldom-discussed economie aspects of the story. We ran extensive reports on the antiwar movement, about whlch there was a virtual news blackout in the mainstream press. The U.N. Truth Commission report vindicates AGENDA'S work. Yet we have not, and will not, rest on our laurels. We will continue to cover many important stories, from the local to the global, which are important for an understanding of our world but which are ignored, garbled or misrepresented by other news media. AGENDA'S strength is in our principies. Those we will keep. We will maintain both our advocacy and our integrity, secure in the knowledge that hiding ones point of view does not equal "objectivitv." We don't plan to adopt the corporate media's confusión of public office with respectability. While AGENDA lacks flnancial resources, we enjoy the support of a welleducated activist community. Dozens of local people went to El Salvador, conducted interviews, transcribed speeches, translated from Spanish to English and otherwise made it possible to cover a major foreign war, even though we never had the money that the New York Times orThe Ann Arbor News could dedícate to the story. Space considerattons and several correspondents' needs for anonymity prevent us from acknowledging the dozens of people who helped us cover the story, but that in no way lessens our profound gratltude. At AGENDA we are proud of what we've done, and we intend to continue for another seven years, and then some. We can do a betterjob with a little help from. ourfriends. You can help by subscribing, by contributing money, or by writing articles when you have a good story to teil. To help out, or to obtain copies of the articles mentioned in this editorial, cali AGENDA at 9968018.


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