News

Mass. State Rep. Calls on University VP to Increase Transparency for Allston Multimodal Project

News

Harvard President Lawrence Bacow Made $1.1 Million in 2020, Financial Disclosures Show

News

Harvard Executive Vice President Katie Lapp To Step Down

News

81 Republican Lawmakers File Amicus Brief Supporting SFFA in Harvard Affirmative Action Lawsuit

News

Duke Senior’s Commencement Speech Appears to Plagiarize 2014 Address by Harvard Student

Bok, Nieman Foundation Appeal for Journalist's Release

Make Independent Efforts to Win Freedom for Alumnus Being Held on Spying Charges by the Soviet Union

By Jennifer L. Mnookin

President Derek C. Bok and the Nieman Foundation independently sent telegrams to Soviet officials this week, in an effort to help speed the release of jailed journalist Nicholas Daniloff '56.

Daniloff, the Moscow correspondent for U.S. News and World Report, was arrested eight days ago and is presently being detained in a Moscow jail. Soviet officials have threatened Daniloff with a spy trial.

Bok's telegram said, "The arrest and detention of our alumnus Nicholas Daniloff is an affront to the principles of journalistic freedom and the unfettered sharing of information by the nations of the world. Denying him legal assistance and isolating him from his family compound the injustice being done to Mr. Daniloff. I urge that he be released immediately."

Bok's letter was sent September 3 to Eduard Shevardnadze, the Soviet minister of foreign affairs, and September 4 to Georgi Arbatov, director of the Institute of USA and Canada, the USSR Academy of Arts and Sciences, and Yuri V. Dubinin, the Soviet ambassador to the United States.

The letter sent on behalf of the Nieman Fellows Program, Harvard's mid-career program for top journalists, vigorously protested Daniloff's arrest, and urged his immediate release, said Howard Simons, curator of the Nieman Foundation. Daniloff was a Nieman fellow in the 1973-'74 academic year.

Simons, who wrote the letter on behalf of the 700 Nieman alumni, said he doubted it would have a significant effect. "The Nieman Foundation is powerful, but it's not a superpower. I'm not sure how much the Soviet Union will care what we think," he said.

Ellen P. Goodman '63, columnist for the Boston Globe, said that she thought the letters might do some good and certainly couldn't hurt. "Gorbachev doesn't get up in the morning and worry about what Derek Bok or the Nieman fellows think, but it's part of the whole larger sense of knowing that the community--and the journalistic community--is concerned and aware," said Goodman, who was a Nieman Fellow with Daniloff in 1974.

In his convocation speech on Friday, Secretary of State George P. Shultz ruled out the possibility of trading prisoners with the Soviets to secure Daniloff's release.

"Let there be no talk of a trade for Daniloff. We--and Nick himself--have ruled that out. The Soviet leadership must find the wisdom to settle this case quickly, in accordance with the dictates of simple human decency and of civilized international behavior," Shultz said.

Previously, some newspapers had reported that the United States was considering trading accused Soviet spy Gennadiy Zakharov for Daniloff.

Many, including Goodman, are certain that Daniloff was framed by the KGB, possibly in retaliation for the U.S. arrest of Zakharov. Daniloff was arrested after a Soviet acquaintance gave him a packet that was later found to include maps marked "top secret."

"Nick is not a spy; let's start with the basics," Goodman said.

Goodman said she thought that all of the American journalists in the U.S.S.R. should protest on Daniloff's behalf. She said American journalists could be most helpful by keeping the story in the news. "What journalism does is keep the story alive," she said.

She also said that U.S. reporters in Iron Curtain countries always have to be on guard, and that Daniloff is a very experienced Moscow reporter. "He's a real old hand," she said. "You always have to be sifting, always judging character, but Nick has a real savvy sense. And he's built up a lot of contacts," she added.

In his class notes for his 25th Reunion, Daniloff said he originally wanted to be a diplomat, but was not accepted into the foreign service, the Central Intelligence Agency, or the United States Information Agency. His career in journalism began by chance--he walked into the Washington Post in 1956 and was hired as a copy boy.

In 1961, Daniloff began his first stint in Moscow. He stayed there until 1965, covering the Cuban Missile crisis from the Soviet perspective, Krushchev's fall and Brezhnev's rise.

Daniloff was getting ready to leave the Soviet Union when he was arrested. "I think you're always a little bit more at risk when you're on your way out," Goodman said.

Want to keep up with breaking news? Subscribe to our email newsletter.

Tags