12.15.09

House Passes Daniel Pearl Freedom of the Press Act

Official Seal of the US House of Representatives

Tuesday, December 15, 2009 Contact: Sean Oblack (202) 225-4176

House Passes Daniel Pearl Freedom of the Press Act

Measure requires expanded examination of freedom of the press worldwide

WASHINGTON, DC— Today, the House passed the Daniel Pearl Freedom of the Press Act, a bill authored by Congressmen Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Mike Pence (R-IN) Co-Chairs of the Congressional Caucus for Freedom of the Press. The legislation expands the examination of press freedom worldwide in the State Department’s annual human rights report. Earlier this year the bill passed as part of the State Department Authorization bill; however, that bill has stalled in the Senate.  The bill that passed today stands on its own and its Senate companion is showing promise, having already passed the Foreign Relations Committee. 

“We have drawn inspiration from Daniel Pearl’s life and hope this legislation will better protect his colleagues who serve on the frontlines in the fight for greater accountability and transparency,” said Schiff.  “Freedom of expression cannot exist where journalists are not safe from persecution and attack.  Our government must promote freedom of the press by putting on center stage those countries in which journalists are killed, imprisoned, kidnapped, threatened, or censored.”

“This bill is not only dedicated to Daniel Pearl in name, but it is a fitting tribute to the many who have gone before him, and those that still face similar dangers today,” Pence said. “As a conservative who believes in limited government, I believe the only check on government power in real time is a free and independent press. A free press ensures the flow of information to the public and serves as a vital check on abuses of power. During a time when the role of government in our lives and our enterprises seems to grow every day, ensuring the vitality of a free and independent press is more important than ever.”

The Daniel Pearl Freedom of the Press Act is named in honor of former Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl who was kidnapped and murdered by terrorists in Pakistan, just four months after the September 11th attacks.  The measure calls upon the Secretary of State to greatly expand its examination of the status of freedom of the press worldwide in the State Department’s Annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. The Daniel Pearl Act requires the State Department to identify countries in which there were violations of press freedom, and whether the government authorities of those countries participate in, facilitate, or condone the violations. This report will spotlight those governments which seek to silence media opposition.