Protest at the Peace Corps

Interesting news. After reading Peace Corps Online’s “Protest at the Peace Corps” story, I placed a little post at the end telling others about my experience with the Peace Corps.” I wrote:

Guyana’s Country Director Earl Brown (2002 � 2004) has twice sent volunteers home for expressing their first amendment rights.

In August 2002, I was given early termination for promoting a better understanding of the Guyanese on the part of Americans via my personal Web site, audio diary, and photo album. Though the site was public at one point, I tried to appease the Peace Corps by adding passwords and other barriers of entry to protect my personal comments from others, to no avail.

In February 2003, two more volunteers were sent home due to a personal email sent to friends and family. Through forwarding, their message made it back to Guyana, their community, and the Peace Corps. Though private, their message wrongfully ended up reaching unexpected recipients and they were sent home because of it.

It’s disappointing that the Peace Corps strips volunteers of their right to freedom of expression via personal Web sites, private emails, online photo albums, and the many other ways that they might choose to communicate with friends and family. Volunteers cannot promote a better understanding of Americans if they are not permitted to behave and communicate as Americans.

My comments apparently attracted the attention of Hugh Pickens, publisher, of Peace Corps Online. Pickens sent me an email asking if he could do a follow-up story on First Amendment rights within the Peace Corps by featuring my case in next month’s issue. Here is what he wrote.

Date: Mon, 16 Jun 2003 22:20:36 EDT
Subject: Peace Corps Online

Dear Mr. Pearce,

I read the post you made on our Peace Corps Online web site regarding your Peace Corps termination and went to your web site to read the details. Your case raises some very interesting issues regarding free speech in the Peace Corps in the internet age that I think need to be discussed in the Returned Volunteer community.

I’d be interested in doing a follow up on our “Protest at the Peace Corps” story from this month’s issue and do a story based on your case for our next month’s issue. It seems to me that your case is not really a case of “political free speech” like we saw in the Dominican Republic but more akin to the Marjorie Michelmore post card case in Nigeria in 1961 that you can read about at:

http://www.peacecorpswriters.org/pages/0001/001pchist.html

What I’d like to do is present both sides of what happened in your case. I’d like to present the summary of your case from your point of view from your page at:

http://jason.pearce.net/peacecorps/cos/caseforappeal.html

and I’d like to present the Peace Corps’ point of view as summarized in the CD’s letter at:

http://jason.pearce.net/peacecorps/cos/memoregardingdeparture.html

Please let me know what you think about my idea.

Best Regards,

Hugh Pickens
Publisher, Peace Corps Online
Peru, 1970 – 73

I sent him an email this evening accepting his invitation and offered other suggestions as to how I can help him present a fair and informative story. I look forward to seeing how this all develops.