Nurturing their own hopes for greater freedom, Poland's journalists are faced with a growing dilemma that stems from the political power struggle between the authorities and the new independent trade organization, Solidarity.
Although the press here is demanding more rights to say and print what it wants, many Polish journalists feel they have a responsibility to show and advocate moderation in order to prevent a more danagerous polarization of political forces in the country.
Adding to the pressure for press reform, however, is Solidarity itself, which is insisting on more uncensored media access. The young union has won permission to publish a weekly national paper, but questions of access by regional branches of the organization and of regular radio and television time by Solidarity's national coordinating committee remain unresolved, and could become a new flashpoint for crisis.
Already a more informative, understandable style of journalism has helped transform the Polish press since the summer upheaval. Much of what was previusly unpublishable gets into print daily, from open criticism of government policy to discussion of the activities of the free trade-union movement.
At the same time, the changes have been patchy and not as far-reaching as some journalists would like. At an extraordinary congress of journalists held in Warsaw recently, the mood was often stormy and bitter about past official manipulation of the press and critical about the slowness of the current reform.
The election at the congress of Stefan Bratkowski as president of the Polish Journalistic Association was itself indicative of the new attitude. Bratkowski is widely respected as an honest, independent-minded and tenacious journalist.
From 1973 until this year, however, his name had not appeared in print here. He had fallen out of favor with the regime of ex-party chief Edward Gierek as a result of pushing reforms. His return last month as editor of the weekly section in the major Warsaw daily Zycie Warszawy was taken as an encouraging sign of the changing times.
"I think I could describe my feelings as a return to normality," he told an audience of journalists last week. "I think it's the ambition of the journalistic community in Poland to go back to their normal duties."
Very much on the minds of the journalistic community here is the experience in Czechoslovakia where the abolition of censorship and an aggressive press helped precipitate the 1968 Soviet invasion. In pointed reference to that episode. Bratkowski said, "I am not afraid of such extremist attitudes as were expressed by our neighbors to the south. This is a revolution of common sense and its limits are those of common sense, in a country where for a long time common sense was banned."
The Polish government has not agreed to abolish censorship but merely to restrict it. A parliamentary commission is now drafting a new censorship law. Journalists want to the new law simply to list the specific cases in which censorship will be exercised, leaving everything else free of oversight.
The list of censored subjects proposed by the journalistic association includes: information calling for the abolition of the socialist system or for breaking of Poland's international alliances; reports that are humiliating or ridiculing of the Polish nation; war proganda; state secrets; reports insulting toward foreign states; reports calling for commission of crimes and offenses; information without official premission from an investigation or court trial; pornography; and dishonest advertising.
In addition, journalists have recommended that the censor's office be made responsible not to the premier, as in the past but to the parliament. This is to avoid the possibility of the administration sharing out its authority to regional or ministerial departments, which could then lead to multiple interference in press affairs.
Conscious of the limits of the current reform, Bratkowski indicated it was partnership and not full independence from the authorities that Polish journalists were seeking. Symbolizing this was the presence of Jozef Klasa, spokesman for the Polish Communist Party's Central Committee, seated next to Bratkowski at last week's talk.
Asked whether he could foresee a discussion in the press here of Poland's relationship with the Soviet Union, Bratkowski said some subjects would remain untouchable.
"There are our political realities," he said. "Some situations in our country which seem so natural to us seem strange to foreigners. Some points and political issues we cannot discuss. Some matters of the political system are not matters of journalism."
Many journalists here have objected to the fact that a large part of the job of informing the Polish public has been performed not by the Polish press but by foreign radio stations, notatably Radio Free Europe, the Voice of America and the British Broadcasting Corp.
It was in view of this that Bratkowski said he hoped the changes under way would be sufficient so that "Polish government leaders will themselves read the papers in their own country and find things out."
In another development, news services reported the following:
Pope John Paul II met privately with two Polish government officials, a Vatican spokesman said.
The pope, a Pole, received Jerzy Ozdowski, a member of the Polish Council of State, and then met Kazimiez Szablewski, who is responsible for permanent contacts between the Polish government and the Holy See.
Vatican sources said it was the first direct contact between the pope and Polish government officials since Polish workers won the right to form free trade unions.