THE banner headline of Marianas Variety’s June 9, 1972 issue was “GOVERNMENT CENSORING RADIO STATION NEWS.”
At the time the NMI was one of the six districts of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands which was administered by the U.S. The other districts were Palau, the Marshall Islands, Ponape (Pohnpei), Truk (Chuuk) and Yap. The TT government’s chief executive was the American high commissioner who was an appointee of the U.S. president. The high commissioner, in turn, appointed the administrator of each district. The TT’s legislative branch was the bicameral Congress of Micronesia, but each district also had their own district legislatures. The Marianas District, moreover, had mayors, municipal councils, village or district commissioners on top of the TT government’s various departments, offices and other agencies.
On Saipan, the TT government owned and managed the radio station KJQR which had quoted the district economic development officer as saying that the TT government should stop competing with the private sector. MV carried the story early in June 1972.
A week later — MV was still a 5-cent weekly newspaper — Variety reported that the district public affairs officer had issued a memo stating, “all local news gathered by KJQR must be cleared initially by this office…before being aired.” Why? “Recent…news coverage [has] brought unjust embarrassment to individuals and department heads as well as to the District Administration as a whole….”
But that didn’t prevent the radio station manager from telling MV that since the issuance of the memo, two news stories had been “suppressed.” One was about the statue of Buddha on Banzai Cliff that was vandalized “while the tourist office and the chairman of the Land Advisory Board [which wanted the statue removed] were ‘squabbling.’ ” The second story was about a proposal to open the annual Liberation Queen fundraising pageant to “everyone” and not just “bona fide residents of the Marianas.”
In other news, the Saipan Street Paving Committee and the District Public Works Department announced that the street paving project in Chalan Kanoa would resume soon. “Improving the streets of Saipan’s most populated and perhaps dustiest village began several months ago. The project was halted, however, because of problems posed by the sewer lines directly underneath, or in the vicinity of the area to be paved.”
Here’s how our ace reporter wrote the lead of another news story:
“Firing a barrage of charges which scattered like a shotgun blast, [a Congress of Micronesia House member from Saipan] attacked the Trust Territory’s Department of Resources and Development-Division of Labor for allegedly failing to enforce the Territory’s alien labor laws.” The congressman said two “Philippine nationals…changed jobs without proper clearance” while “an American…has been working on Saipan for nearly three years without working papers.”
In an editorial, MV’s reporter reminded the public that Election Day was two days away, and that “the battle for…the Municipal Council, District Commissioners and the coveted mayor’s seat has erupted. Both parties have opened up at each other with heavy artillery. The Territorial Party, led by their brilliant and courageous commanding officer, Jesus Mafnas, has set up the party’s artillery, consisting of a microphone and several speakers in various strategic areas. For some nights now, the Territorial Party has trained its speaker…at the enemy, loaded up the microphone with high explosives and blasted away at the foes. The Popular Party nevertheless managed to endure the unceasing bombardment…. Under the able command of its fearless leader, Herman Q. Guerrero, the Popular Party has opened up with earshattering rapid salvoes of its own. All these encounters are just the prelude to the really big battle that will take place Sunday, June 11.”
MV’s editor, for his part, urged voters to “examine the credentials of individual candidates” and “choose the ones who appear most qualified — their party affiliation notwithstanding.”
One of the two Saipan mayoral candidates placed an ad in this newspaper to share his platform with the voters. He vowed to “work for a better administration, for more revenues, better relationship with TT government and businesses, more jobs, improvement of roads, more scholarship funds, recreation facilities, jobs for students during summer vacation, more money for the needy and old people, garbage disposal services, open the Sugar Dock channel, help maintain cemeteries, help farmers transport their products including equipment.” He also promised “not to be involved in any kind of business” during his term of office.
His campaign slogan?
Spoiler alert: He lost in a landslide.
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