The people of Nicaragua, it was recently decided, should not read about adjustment problems suffered by Palestinian youths training in the Soviet Union.
Nor should they read, it was also decided, about U.S. intelligence estimates that Cuban troop strength in Angola has risen or about a call for elections and increased liberties in their own country from the Nicaraguan ambassador to Washington.
Assigned to make these decisions is Nelba Blandon, a 24-year-old wearing designer jeans who earned a law degree from the University of Leon in 1980 and has been the country's chief censor since the Sandinista government decreed a state of emergency March 15.
"I would not like it if I were a journalist and my work was censored," she said in an interview, smiling easily under short-cropped hair.
"But unfortunately, the history of our last three years has shown us that the newspapers have led us into genuinely dangerous situations. In the three years since our revolution, some media have provoked disorientation among the people, uncertainties."
As a result, for the last nine months Blandon and her youthful staff from the Interior Ministry's Media Department have had the last word, sometimes after consultations with superiors, on what appears in Nicaragua's three daily newspapers and a few smaller publications.
Their decisions occasionally have widely known results. Ambassador Francisco Fiallos, for example, left his post after he criticized the Sandinista government in an interview that was kept from the Nicaraguan reading public but found its way into the U.S. press. One of his main complaints was press censorship.
Most decisions have less widely known results. Few Nicaraguans or foreigners found out, for example, that writers at La Prensa newspaper urged an investigation to determine whether a Nicaraguan helicopter that crashed Dec. 9, killing 75 children and 11 adults, might have been overloaded.
The editorial was censored. It was judged out of line with a government campaign denouncing U.S.-backed counterrevolutionary guerrillas whose attacks along the Honduras border were the reason for the fatal evacuation flight.
"We cannot permit at this time that these gentlemen try to endorse these crimes," Blandon said. "The victims are peasants and children."
La Prensa, an afternoon daily under editor Pedro Joaquin Chamorro Barrios, has become a particular problem for Blandon. It has adopted a policy of broad and sometimes pugnacious opposition to the Sandinista leadership, charging that the revolutionaries have reneged on promises of political pluralism.
The combative posture comes naturally to La Prensa. It also was a major opponent of Anastasio Somoza, the dictator whom the Sandinistas overthrew in July 1979, and was shut down several times by Somoza's own officialdom. The 1978 murder of its editor -- the father of the current editor -- was blamed on associates of Somoza and strengthened the opposition movement that led to the Sandinista victory.
Blandon has fewer problems with Barricada, organ of the ruling Sandinista National Liberation Front, or El Nuevo Diario, which is openly enthusiastic about the government. But, according to journalists at the two morning newspapers, both have had items censored by Blandon's office.
"As a journalist, I cannot agree" with censorship, said Xavier Chamorro, editor of El Nuevo Diario and uncle of La Prensa's editor. "We cannot agree. But we understand it. After all, we are in a war on the border."
Nicaragua's government and private radios and its government television news are exempt from prior censorship, as are outgoing dispatches by foreign correspondents. Blandon said she has talked to Nicaraguan broadcast editors and found them to be "ethical journalists" whom she can trust to exercise good judgment.
La Prensa, on the other hand, was shut down three weeks ago for two days as punishment for having published a banned article and shown "an antipatriotic attitude" by passing along to foreign embassies articles that Blandon and her staff had prevented from appearing in the newspaper.
A member of the newspaper's staff said excised articles continue to be sent to embassies, including those of the United States and the Soviet Union, on grounds that they are delivered in envelopes and thus constitute private correspondence. But Deputy Interior Minister Rene Vivas called in La Prensa executives last week--after the Fiallos interview--and warned them again to halt the distribution, warning of "drastic measures" if they persist.
Blandon said the government has a particular quarrel with La Prensa because its editors "try to deny that there is a revolution in this country and that our interests are those of the working class."
"They sometimes make themselves into spokesmen for the enemy," she added. "Unfortunately, we have to censor it."