House Passes Daniel Pearl Freedom of the Press Act in State Department Authorization Bill

Official Seal of the US House of Representatives

Thursday, June 11, 2009 Contact: Sean Oblack (202) 225-4176

House Passes Daniel Pearl Freedom of the Press Act in State Department Authorization Bill

Measure requires expanded examination of freedom of the press worldwide and creates grants to strengthen press freedom around the globe

WASHINGTON, DC— Late yesterday, the House passed the Daniel Pearl Freedom of the Press Act as part of the Foreign Relations Authorization Act (H.R. 2410).  The measure, authored by Congressmen Adam Schiff (D-CA), Co-Chair of the Congressional Caucus for Freedom of the Press, expands the examination of press freedom worldwide in the State Department’s annual human rights report and establishes a grant program aimed at broadening and strengthening media independence internationally. Rep. Schiff worked with Foreign Affairs Chairman Howard Berman to get the measure added to the Foreign Relations Authorization bill.

“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.”

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.

The measure also established a grant program. Grants recipients will provide regionally and culturally relevant training to journalists and media organizations to help them meet international standards in both traditional and web-based reporting. For the first time, these grants can span multiple years, giving organizations much-needed time and flexibility to create a sustainable framework for media enterprises. Often, media assistance programs are short-term, ranging from one year projects to weekend workshops, which makes it difficult to build a solid foundation for independent media before funding runs out.