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ETAN Letter to Pacifica Radio Network Concerning Amy Goodman and Democracy Now!

November 3, 2000

Dear Pacifica Board and Management,

We are writing to urge you to remove onerous restrictions on Amy Goodman and Democracy Now!. Ms. Goodman's programming is essential not only to our work and to the people of East Timor, but to those working for peace and justice in the United States and around the world.

The East Timor Action Network (ETAN) includes 12,000 activists, in every state. We have local chapters in all five Pacifica cities and 23 other locations. Since 1992, we have been the principal organization in the United States advocating for the human and political rights of the people of East Timor. As you know, those efforts bore fruit last year, with a U.N.-sponsored referendum (and subsequent Indonesia- sponsored devastation) that put East Timor inexorably on the path to independence.

ETAN would not exist were it not for Amy Goodman's courageous and insightful reporting. Indeed, East Timor would probably still be under brutal Indonesian military occupation were it not for her. When Amy reported from East Timor in 1990 and 1991, there was no support movement here. But her reporting of the November 12, 1991 massacre, which several of ETAN's founders heard over WBAI, sparked our awareness and consciences and prompted us to form the East Timor Action Network. We saw the opening in media coverage, initiated by WBAI but briefly spreading into the corporate press, as an opportunity to challenge U.S. military support for Indonesia, and thereby end the occupation.

It took eight years of hard work, but we built a broad-based national movement in the United States, ended U.S. weapons sales and military training for Indonesia's military dictatorship, and transformed U.S. policy from acceptance of the occupation to support for U.N. action to respect the East Timorese people's legal and moral right to self- determination.

As our movement grew, we were continually reminded of the importance of Pacifica Radio and Amy's work. More Americans have learned about East Timor, and about the U.S. role in arming Indonesia, from Amy's reporting than from any other source. When East Timor finally became headline news in 1999, Pacifica listeners already knew more than the journalists writing in the mainstream media. Democracy Now! had enabled real democracy - the exercise and expression of political opinion by an informed citizenry.

Amy's insight and analysis are heard more widely than over the airways. She has often shared her wisdom with ETAN meetings, and spoken at events around the country organized by ETAN chapters and activists. She not only helped people learn about East Timor but, perhaps more importantly, taught them about Pacifica, and how this essential medium has enabled Americans to actively work for human rights. We hope you will withdraw your ill-considered restrictions on her public speaking engagements.

We understand that some of you have criticized Amy's consistent and thorough reporting on East Timor. But how many other journalists - in the U.S. or anywhere - share credit for the freedom of an entire nation? As Amy said when she accepted the DuPont/Columbia Award for her and Allan Nairn's East Timor documentary, Pacifica's responsibility is "to go where the silence is, and say something." Instead of silencing her voice, you should celebrate it.

Over the years, I've spoken on the phone with Amy at all hours (she never sleeps, and is always on the job), and have been with her in WBAI studios numerous times. I know, as I hope you do, how hard she works. Unnecessary and misguided pressures - imposed producers, advance notification of program topics, lifting press credentials, petty personal harassment - make it appear that Pacifica management no longer values Amy's work. Pacifica and its listeners are fortunate to have someone as perceptive, persistent, articulate insightful, honorable, and dedicated as Amy - if she is forced to leave you will never find a replacement.

In recent weeks, some Pacifica listeners have asserted that the management and many on the board oppose progressive social change, that you want to eliminate Pacifica and Democracy Now! as sources of alternative information. We trust that this is not true, and consequently appeal to your consciences. Pacifica Radio has played an irreplaceable role in this country for many decades. In these days of globalization, corporate media mergers, and the narrowing of political information and debate, that role is needed more than at any time since the days of Lou Hill.

On a personal note, I have been a Pacifica listener since the 1960s, and the information I heard over WBAI as a high school student was a crucial component of the political education that oriented me to work for global peace and justice for the past 30 years. Currently, I contribute monthly to Pacifica by EFT. I hope that you will not take actions that drive away my loyalty and support.

Thank you.

For Peace and Justice,

Charles Scheiner 
National Coordinator
East Timor Action Network

FAIR Action Alert on Democracy Now!


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