In a move that aims to strengthen the United States’ monitoring and, where possible, enforcement of press freedom the world over, President Barack Obama yesterday signed the Daniel Pearl Freedom of the Press Act into law.
Named after the Wall Street Journal reporter who was kidnapped and killed by militants in Pakistan in 2001, the bill was signed in the presence of Mr. Pearl’s widow and son and described by Mr. Obama as “a strong message from the U.S. government and… State Department that we are paying attention to how other governments are operating when it comes to the press.”
The President said the act would uphold the U.S.’s “core values” and directed the State Department to record how press freedom operates in conjunction with U.S. human rights assessments. It would hold countries that facilitate press repression to world opinion, Mr. Obama added.
Touching upon the immense risks that media face in some parts of the world, Mr. Obama said, “All around the world there are enormously courageous journalists and bloggers who, at great risk to themselves, are trying to shine a light on the critical issues that the people of their country face; who are the frontlines against tyranny and oppression.”
In that context he noted the death of Daniel Pearl was “one of those moments that captured the world’s imagination because it reminded us of how valuable a free press is, and it reminded us that there are those who would go to any length in order to silence journalists around the world.”
Mr. Obama thanked Mr. Pearl’s widow, Mariane, and son Adam for their courage in ensuring that Mr. Pearl’s legacy of holding governments accountable lived on, observing that this legislation “puts us clearly on the side of journalistic freedom”.