Stefan Bratkowski, a former president of the Polish journalist's association who has been unemployed since the coup d'etat of Dec. 13, 1981, still manages to express himself in public.
He writes regularly for a monthly magazine for the blind, where his articles appear in Braille. And he often addresses the faithful at the chapel of Podkowa, 20 miles from Warsaw.
There are in Poland hundreds of journalists like Bratkowski who were among the first victims of "normalization." This was perfectly logical, since Solidarity's major battle was for freedom of expression, and the Communist Party's strongest line of resistance was its refusal to abandon its monopoly on information.
Both Solidarity and the party were fully conscious of the fact that the circulation of information among the striking workers in Poland and between Poland and the rest of the world had been a deciding factor in the test of strength between the nation and the regime in 1980.
They also knew that by paralyzing the nation's entire communications system (radio, TV, press, telephone, mails and telex) at midnight on Dec. 12, 1981, the regime was able to prevent even the slightest hint of an organized resistance to the coup.
After the coup, the Polish journalists' association was the first organization to be banned. It was made illegal last March, six months before Solidarity was outlawed. Right afterward, hundreds of journalists were fired from their jobs and dozens of publications were closed.
At the same time, the security police organized their most effective dragnet operations -- not against underground Solidarity leaders but against clandestine sources of information, including hidden printing plants and secret radio stations.
So it was inevitable that the foreign press would become a target. The problem here was not Poland's image abroad, but the internal echo of news filed from Poland to newspapers and radio stations abroad, which is then beamed back to Poland by foreign radio stations like the BBC and Radio Free Europe. So long as foreign reporters in Poland were able to obtain underground publications and talk to opponents of the regime, they could report the kind of information that Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski is eager to keep from his countrymen.
So this month the military regime's began a new campaign of intimidation against Western journalists by expelling the BBC's chief correspondent, then arresting and ousting the chief of UPI's Warsaw bureau. The regime also refused to admit Austrian TV staffs.
Meanwhile, the authorities began to revoke the working papers of Polish employes of Western news organizations. This is intended to deprive Western journalists of professional interpreters and assistants -- though the regime is always prepared to replace them with personnel whose main qualification is a close link to the police.
Sixteen major agencies and newspapers (among them Agence France Press, Reuters, UPI, Newsweek, Time, Le Monde, ABC and CBS) have protested this attack on their freedom to work independently, warning that they intend to "bring up this matter before the appropriate international tribunals."
Gen. Jaruzelski is not likely to be impressed. What is at stake for him, and of course for Moscow, too, is control over information emanating from and coming back to Poland.
So the regime has been jamming as thoroughly as possible (with help from transmitters inside the Soviet Union) all Western radio broadcasts. It is now a crime in Poland to distribute or even to possess "subversive publications" -- that is, virtually anything printed in the West.
Of course there is a fundamental contradiction between the persecution of the Western press in Warsaw and attempts by Polish and Soviet propagandists to win international acceptance for Jaruzelski's regime. But for Jaruzelski and the Russians, domestic silence is more important than international acceptance.
This is particularly true for the months immediately ahead, when a series of sensitive trials of leading opponents of the martial law regime could reignite domestic opposition to Jaruzelski. The general must be anxious about how foreign radio stations will report these trials.
Jaruzelski also must be worried about the scheduled visit of the Pope in June, and about the possibility that the visit will have to be canceled -- and about the reactions that either might incite.
So the campaign against the Western press is only just starting. The Polish government spokesman made this clear in a statement on the recent expulsions of foreign journalists -- a statement that raised the possibility that "1984" has arrived a year early. "The authorities' intention," he said, "is to guarantee to all foreign correspondents the best conditions for collecting news that is authentically journalistic."
In other words, the regime would be delighted if all of the 70 Western reporters accredited in Warsaw -- 19 of them are Americans -- wrote only in Braille, and if all 35 million Poles could be kept blind to reality.