Poland vs. press

Poland's communist regime evidently framed UPI correspondent Ruth Gruber with a couple of rolls of film sent to her in Warsaw from troubled Gdansk. But her expulsion was a blunt word to the wise among journalists forced to use various similar means of maneuvering information and pictures through a closed society. It was a warning to Western reporters and the Poles assisting them that Big Brother knows what is going on and could become much nastier about it if he chose.

The action, as the US State Department said last week, appears part of a pattern of harassment targeted at Western embassies and correspondents and their local employees. BBC correspondent Kevin Ruane was expelled earlier this month.

This is not the way a Big Brother confident of himself would behave. The efforts at intimidation betray the insecurity of leaders who know that most of the led are not willing followers. If the leaders don't get more of the population behind them the intimidation could increase. At the same time, so long as Poland hopes for Western economic aid, there may be a brake on wholesale lifting of visas or other extreme measures.

As it is, Westerners and their Polish contacts face the challenge to keep pressing against the boundaries of repression without simply bringing on tighter and tighter limitations.

This is a challenge to the State Department, too, as it measures and carries out possible responses to the Polish harassment.

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