THE MICHIGAN DAILY
zunday, October 1, 19 1
Editors Note - AP Special
Correspondent Peter Arnett re-
turned to New York Friday night
after spending 10 days in Hanoi
covering the release of the three
American prisoners of war. In
this, the first of several articles,
the Pulitzer Prize reporter dis-
cusses what it is like to work as a
foreign newsman in North Viet-
By PETER ARNETT
AP Special Correspondent
The North Vietnamese official
I knew as Mr. Lieu waved me to
a table at the corner of the Hoa
Binh Hotel Lobby. He was clutch-
ing in his hand the three copies of
a news dispatch I had filed eight
Normally Mr. Lieu had worn a
broad smile and spoke only Viet-
namese. Now he was grim-faced
and spoke broken but identifiable
English in short, staccato bursts.
"Mr. Arnett," he began, "you
know you are perfectly free to
write anything yu wish about
the Democratic Republic of Viet-
nam. However, in this message
there are some references which
disturb us greatly .. ."
And so began an hour-long hag-
gling over yet another news dis-
patch from Hanoi, North Viet-
nam, during the 10 days I was
there covering the release of
three American pilots. .
From the beginning of the visit,
North Vietnamese officials made
no secret of their desire to get
the maximum publicity from the
pilots' release. They had added
the potent emotional ingredient
of bringing an American mother
and an American wife to Hanoi
to receive them.
After the release ceremony and
family reunion in People's Army
headquarters on the second eve-
ning of our visit, the Vietnamese
liaison officer between the fami-
lies and the army said to me,
"Do you think this event will
have any real impact on Ameri-
can public opinion?"
As the week unfolded it was
apparent to me that Hanoi was
seeking impact on two levels.
Firstly, the North Vietnamese
wanted to show the American
public that the nearly 40 prison-
ers were well treated, and that
release of all of them was tan-
tilizingly near - just end the
Secondly, the pilots and their
families would be a vehicle to
further dramatize bombing dam-
age against urban centers, chur-
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news from Hanoi
ches and civilians, and for this
purpose they were taken along
the route followed by Jane Fonda
and Ramsey Clark.
It was this second aspect that
Mr. Lieu wanted to discuss with
me in the lobby of the Hoa Binh
Hotel. He felt that my dispatch,
a 1,500-word account of a two-
day field trip by the pilots and
their relatives south of Hanoi,
put too much emphasis on the
- "You have suggested that we
forced the pilots to make state-
ments condemning the damage,"
he said. I had mentioned -in the
report the constant presence of
government photographers and
radio reporters, and the loaded
questions from province offic-
ials and people who said they
were civilian bombing victims,
questions like, "What do you say
about this destruction by your
I finally narrowed down his
area of concern to two passages
in my dispatch. In one I had
written that local officials seem-
ed to be pushing the questioning
too far and were upsetting the
American women, the other was
a quote from Navy pilot Lt. Mark
Gartley that he felt the North
Vietnamese were disappointed
when he did not publicly con-
demn the war.
I finally agreed to delete the
reference to pushing, one reason
being that Mr. Lieu interpreted
this literally as meaning forcing,
another reason being that the
content of the story made my
comment irrelevant - the push-
ing was obvious. But I insisted
that the Gartley quote remain.
Mr. Lieu was satisfied, appar-
ently. He shook my hand and
said the dispatch would be tele-
graphed to Paris, and it was.
All of the reports filed from Ha-
noi received similar close per-
sual, but they did not insist on
any story changes that offend-
ed my professional standards.
Changes were made only in my
presence and with my approval.
They were minor, dealing, as in
the case above, with differing
interpretations of a word.
The main restriction did not
deal with my dispatches per se.
It was the severe limitation of
movement and close supervision.
I was accompanied by an inter-
preter or a guide at all times,
except after the fifth day in
the city when I was allowed
occasionally to walk alone a
block or so to the cable office.
As the first American news
service reporter to cover a run-
ning news story in North Viet-
nam since the French left in the
mid-1950s, I knowthat I perplex-
ed and sorely tested Vietnamese
They gathered around me in
surprise when on arriving in Ha-
noi airport from Vientiane, Laos,
I immediately pulled out my
portable typewriter and wrote a
rapid dispatch to hand to another
newsman flying out to the free
With communications to the
outside world limited to a few
hours of transmissions daily to
Paris and Hong Kong, my long
dispatches tended to accumulate
at the post office. A combina-
tion of discussion and cable prob-
lems delayed an interview with
Hanoi's top newspaper editor for
three days. When I complained
of these delays one of the inter-
preters who continually hovered
around us commented, "Firstly,
you send far too much. Secondly,
thisis an agricultural society not
an industrial one so don't expect
I discovered that my 10 years
of covering the war from South
Vietnam Ifad not passed unnotic-
ed in Hanoi. I was aware that
Hanoi newspapers had for years
carried selective stories of
mine, particularly those critical
of the Saigon government.
Every official we met from
province chiefs to Prime Minis-
ter Pham Van Dong commented
on my war reporting, but few
asked my comments on the war.
While I insisted on sending my
newstdispatches on the pilots,
and the interviews, through the
Hanoi/Post and Telegraph Office,
I have saved my analytical and
impressionistic reports until my
return to the United States.
I decided I didn't have the pa-
tience to argue the finer points
of a free press with Mr. Lieu,
particularly in a dispatch such
as this one that he might have
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PETER ARNETT (right), the author of the dispatch on this page,
is shown here helping a wounded South Vietnamese soldier while on
assignment recently in South Vietnam.
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