The German Democratic Republic (DDR),anxious about the effect of Moscow's glasnost on its increasingly disenchanted people, has adopted a tough line against Soviet media and any glimmers of Kremlin-style openness at home.
Diplomats and other sources from East and West believe the DDR's aging leadership is desperately clinging to values that are fast losing currency in more reform-minded countries."It's definitely a new hard line and it shows just how jumpy they (the DDR leaders) are about the discussions glasnost has prompted," said one senior Western envoy.
Always wary about the Kremlin's new ability to wash its laundry in public, East Berlin has now gone on the offensive against the Soviet media and even some of its own:
- Last Saturday, the post office banned a popular Soviet press digest, Sputnik. It said the monthly magazine distorted history and did not serve DDR-Soviet friendship. October's issue had already been barred from delivery.
- The Culture Ministry pulled the plug last week on five Soviet films shown during a special Soviet cinema festival and then due to be screened in ordinary theaters.
- At least one prominent journalist was reprimanded for writing too critically in October in the DDR Communist Party daily Berliner Zeitung about consumer goods shortages.
- Officials scrapped a new program at East Berlin's sell-out Distel cabaret because the political satire cut too close to the bone with daring jokes about reforms.
- Censors have continued to order deletions from Protestant Church newspapers, sometimes for reporting on meetings where clergy have called for reform.
In addition, police continue to keep a close watch on church-linked opposition groups by staging house raids and briefly detaining members for checks.
And an East Berlin school expelled four pupils in late September for questioning the need for military parades. The church complained and wants the children reinstated.
Many DDR residents, including party members, have expressed outrage tinged with resignation that East Berlin under party chief Erich Honecker sees fit to decide what they can and cannot see from an allied country, even though they tune in to West German television and radio most days.
"The stars of the black market used to be Stern and Spiegel (West German news magazines). Now it will be Sputnik - the forbidden fruit always tastes better," said one young man.