The man from Afghanistan suddenly reminded the fuzzy international conference what it was all about. "Someone had to speak up for my people," said Akhtar Mohammed Paktiawal, calling for peace with the Soviet Union but pointing to its violation of his country's freedom. No one had expected such an actual example of free expression amid the efforts to hedge it about on a global scale by Soviet and other delegates to the Belgrade UNESCO meeting debating a "new world information order." The distance freedom has to go may be suggested by the fact that Mr. Paktiawal felt he had to seek Western asylum after making his remarks.
We do not minimize the concerns of third world nations for fairness in news coverage -- something Americans want, too, according to a recent poll -- and for alleviation of their various disadvantages as gatherers, purveyors, and subjects of news.
But every valuable UNESCO initiative toward improvement seems accompanied by possible governmental encroachments on the free flow of information on which the usefulness of the information media basically depends. Mr. Paktiawal noted that the resolutio under discussion when he spoke contained nothing about the free flow of information. By doing something aobut it, he challenged all the doubletalk about controlling the news in the name of liberating it.