Press freedom has a good day: WPFD, the Daniel Pearl Act

Yesterday was a good one for press freedom. “The United States joins the international community in celebrating World Press Freedom Day,” said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a statement. “Wherever independent media are under threat, accountable governance and human freedom are undermined.” She went on to defend harassed or jailed bloggers in nations from Cuba to Burma. Clinton further noted that 71 journalists, citing CPJ figures, were killed last year, many murdered with impunity.

But last year was a bad one for press freedom, said President Barack Obama. More media workers “were killed for their work last year than any year in recent history,” reads the White House statement. “In this year, like in other years, nearly three out of four of the journalists killed were local news-gatherers who were murdered in their own nations.”

Obama went on to acknowledge one local journalist: Chauncey Bailey, who was gunned down three years ago in his own town of Oakland, California, while taking a homeless man to breakfast. “A trial of the alleged perpetrator is scheduled to begin this summer,” said Obama’s statement. “Such accountability is critical to deterring future attacks.”


Accountability and the need for more specific information in order to prosecute ongoing press freedom abuses is the impetus behind the Daniel Pearl Freedom of the Press Act, which the Senate unanimously passed last week. Identical to the bill that already passed the house, the legislation will now go to the president, who is expected to sign it into law.


“Daniel Pearl’s life was an inspiration to all of us,” said Congressman Adam Schiff (D-CA), founder of the Congressional Caucus for Freedom of the Press, who introduced the bill last year. “We hope this legislation will help the United States work with other nations to better protect his colleagues serving on the frontlines in the fight for greater accountability and transparency.”


The legislation would require the State Department to expand its reporting on press freedom to identify countries in which there were violations of press freedom; determine whether the government authorities of those countries participate in, facilitate, or condone the violations; and report the actions such governments have taken to preserve the safety and independence of the media and ensure the prosecution of individuals who attack or murder journalists.

CPJ Chairman Paul Steiger was Daniel Pearl’s editor at The Wall Street Journal when he was abducted and later killed.