The press shuttered

The Reagan administration's decision to restrict press access to the Grenada mission was unfortunate. The three biggest losers are the American public, the administration, and the nation's image.

The administration must have known that many Americans and others would be skeptical of the professed reasons for the Grenada mission: to rescue Americans on the island and (after the invasion was under way) to prevent the establishment there of a major Cuban military outpost. The best way to convince skeptics would have been to allow at least one group from the independent-thinking press onto the island within the first day, and to give them the widest practicable access to people and places. If the situation was as the administration has said, the press generally would have said so - thus bolstering the administration's case in the eyes of Americans and the world.

One of democracy's strengths is that its motives can withstand independent examination most of the time: By contrast, it is a serious weakness of communism , which rigidly controls press access. Over the long haul it is a mistake for a democracy to exclude such scrutiny.

Permitting the press to accompany the American mission would have posed substantial additional challenges for the Reagan administration as it sought to mount a secret, fast-paced military strike. There would have been physical danger for accompanying journalists - though this is a professional hazard that most accept. Thus it is understandable that the administration would decide to exclude the press from the assault. The British similarly tightly controlled press access to the Falkland Islands during its invasion.

After the Grenadian assault press access was also tightly metered and controlled, so that favorable footages - as of the students' safe return - was the bulk of what was available. Such controls hardly foster the public confidence and support the administration seeks.

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