September 27, 2001
Producers at National Radio Network Banned
from Discussing the World Trade Center Tragedy over New York
New National Program Director Utrice Leid Issues Edict
Two-hour Daily Specials Broadcast from Ground Zero Blocked
NEW YORK (Sept. 27) -- The new Director of National
Programming at the Pacifica Radio Network banned discussion of the
attack on the World Trade Center and its aftermath from the airwaves
of New York station WBAI.
National Program Director Utrice Leid, on the eve of her
departure as interim station manager at Pacifica station WBAI (99.5
FM) in New York City, instructed local public affairs producers this
past weekend that they were to refrain from broadcasting the
programs they had prepared and instead play music and poetry.
"Beyond the Pale," a one hour progressive Jewish radio show which
had prepared a special report on the September 11 attacks, and on
the one-year anniversary of the new Palestinian Intifidah, was
canceled as a result of the edict. "Radio Free Eireann," a 90-minute
program that covers Irish and Irish-American issues, refused to
abide by the order and took phone calls on the World Trade Center
"It's an astounding irony that Bessie Wash, the Executive
Director of Pacifica, would promote to Director of National
Programming someone who would prohibit discussion of the biggest
news story of the decade," said Bernard White, the former program
director of WBAI and now a staffer with the Pacifica Campaign. "How
can Pacifica make any pretense of being a legitimate news
organization when they are likely the only news outlet to forbid
discussion of a story of such national and global magnitude?"
Leid further instructed the Arts Director at WBAI to inform
Aniruddha Das, the South Asian host of the weekly radio show "Asia
Pacific Forum," that his voice was no longer to appear on the air.
Aniruddha Das's program has been canceled three times since
September 11. The latest edition of "Asia Pacifica Forum" was to
focus on the spate of racial attacks and discrimination faced by
Muslims and people of Arabic and Asian descent.
"This is outright censorship," said Das. "It is an absolute
outrage that as South Asians around the country face harassment and
threats following the World Trade Center attacks that our voices
would be taken off the air."
Leid's promotion to National Program Director comes less than a
month after an August 10 incident in which she physically accosted
Amy Goodman, the host of Pacifica's popular daily public affairs
program "Democracy Now!". The American Federation of Television and
Radio Artists (AFTRA), which represents Goodman and other "Democracy
Now!" staff, has filed a workplace safety grievance against Ms. Leid
on their behalf.
Goodman and the staff of "Democracy Now!" left the studios of
WBAI following the incident and have continued to broadcast from an
offsite location within the evacuation zone near where the World
Trade Centers once stood, pending a resolution of their grievance.
Leid, in her new position, will now supervise Goodman and oversee
all national news programming.
Pacifica Foundation Executive Director Bessie Wash has blocked
the broadcast of "Democracy Now!" and suspended Goodman and her
staff without pay, although many stations -- including Pacifica
station KPFA in Berkeley, CA -- continue to air the program. Since
September 11, "Democracy Now!" has broadcast a daily two hour "War
and Peace Report," which now airs on public access and cable
television stations around the country.
During her controversial nine-month tenure at WBAI, Leid has
fired or banned nearly two dozen producers and staff from the
station, including award-winning African American journalist Robert
Knight, and canceled programs dealing with labor issues, housing and
the environment. WBAI's fundraising and audience has since declined
The Pacifica Campaign is a eight-month old organization of staff
and listeners alike fighting to preserve Pacifica's 50-year
tradition of community-based, listener-sponsored radio.