Foreign Office bans Pitcairn (press cutting)
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NEWSPAPER CUTTINGS Subject: Reference: D.W. [ Daily Worker ] 24.3.37. Sheet No: Folder No: FOREIGN OFFICE BANS PITCAIRN Effort To Gag Daily Worker On Spain Passport Refused PRESSMEN JOIN IN PROTEST THE British Government has given formal orders to the Passport Office to refuse Frank Pitcairn, Daily Worker reporter in Spain, a permit to return to his work in Madrid and has instructed the Passport Office to stamp his passport with the words " Not valid for Spain." The raw facts are that the Government and its Foreign Office have by this action— committed an open discriminatory attack upon the Daily Worker and its news service; undertaken an attack of an unprecedented kind on the existing liberties of British newspapers; and declared themselves publicly as enemies of fair reporting from the Government side in Spain. The affair has already created first astonishment and then indignation among those British newspapermen of all parties who are jealous for the remaining liberties of their profession and of the Press. M.P.s recognised the far-reaching character of the attack upon the freedom of newspaper reporting, and its significance as an illumination of the policy of the Government equally at home and internationally. Questions are being asked in the House of Commons this afternoon. Almost at the same moment when the Passport Office and Foreign Office were forbidding Frank Pitcairn to return to Spain as a reporter for this newspaper, they were giving out permits to other journalists to go to Spain. At one stage of the proceedings a subordinate official at the Foreign Office informed Pitcairn that the Foreign Office proposed not merely to render his passport invalid for Spain, but to seize the passport altogether. Less than 24 hours after this announcement had been made to the Foreign Office, the passport invalidated for Spain was returned without explanation by the Passport Office. The position is that under the provisions of the Non-Intervention Agreement and the regulations for the prevention of volunteers going to Spain to assist in fighting the Italian troops which continue to pour into rebel territory, it is necessary to get from the British Foreign Office an "endorsement" on one's passport before proceeding to Spain. The endorsement is supposed to be given to anyone proceeding to Spain on "legitimate" business — that is to say business not prohibited by the terms of the Non-Intervention Agreement. On the strength of this endorsement on the passport of a British subject the French authorities are enabled to give permission to cross the French frontier to Spain. Without this endorsement the French authorities are compelled by the iniquitous Non-Intervention Agreement to stop travellers at the frontier. An official at the Passport Office admitted yesterday that the purpose of this arrangement is both to stop volunteers and to make it possible (Continued on Page 8.) Endorsement Ban Is Blatant Censorship (By A Legal Correspondent) THE refusal of the authorities to grant Frank Pitcairn, the Daily Worker Special Correspondent, the endorsement on his passport necessary for passing the Spanish frontier, raises again the question of the right of British subjects to travel abroad. British subjects are by law entitled to enter and to leave the British Isles whether or not they possess a passport, and any person who seeks to prevent them exercising this right would be liable to an action for damages. As far as the British authorities are concerned, British subjects are also free to travel abroad where they like, subject only to the laws of the lands where they desire to travel. But in order to enjoy the right to travel abroad, it is, of course, on practice necessary to be armed with a passport, without which it is difficult, if not impossible, to gain legal access into foreign States. Like many other well-known " British liberties," the right to travel is really a barren one, because there is no right to the issue of a passport without which the undeniable right of British subjects to enter or leave England is worthless. The issue of passports to British subjects is a matter entirely at the pleasure of the authorities, who are free to impose such limits or conditions as they think fit upon the use of any passport which they may decide to issue. There is no legal remedy by which a British subject can compel the issue of a passport to him, and no means whereby he can impugn the limitations to which the authorities are "pleased" to subject its use by him. There have been in the past many instances of the fact that the issue of passports and the conditions imposed upon their use are governed by political considerations. It is well known that many communist leaders are prohibited under the terms of their passports from travelling to other parts of the British Empire; the case of Comrade Saklatvala, who was forbidden to travel to the country of his birth, India, by the conditions of his passport, led some time ago to public agitation. Pitcairn's case is probably the first occasion on which the Government has applied a similar principle to the case of foreign correspondents. It will probably be suggested that the terms of the "Non-Intervention" Agreement prevent the issue of passports valid for Spanish travel to persons such as Pitcairn; but the political motive behind the denial to him of a right which is granted to every other foreign journalist is apparent. No doubt that Franco's allies in the Cabinet do not like Pitcairn's reports; it is not the first occasion on which the National Government has tried to censor truths inconvenient for its purposes, although it is rarely so blatantly partisan as on this occasion. Frank Pitcairn, Daily Worker correspondent, photographed recently in Madrid, in conversation with Carlos, chief political Commissar of the 5th Regiment.
|Archive collection||Archives of the Trades Union Congress|
|Archive folder||Spain. March Conference : "Daily Worker" Representative and Breach of Confidence, 1937|
|Document title||Foreign Office bans Pitcairn (press cutting)|
|Issuing organisation||Daily Worker|
|Document date||24 March 1937|
|Subject||Cockburn, Claud, 1904-1981|