On May 17, President Obama showed his support for protecting freedom of press worldwide by signing the Daniel Pearl Freedom of the Press Act into law.
Joined by Mariane Pearl, the widow of the slain journalist Daniel Pearl, and her son Adam, President Obama announced that the Act “sends a strong message from the United States government and from the State Department that we are paying attention to how other governments are operating when it comes to the press. It has the State Department each year chronicling how press freedom is operating as one component of our human rights assessment, but it also looks at countries that are — governments that are specifically condoning or facilitating this kind of press repression, singles them out and subjects them to the gaze of world opinion in ways that I think are extraordinarily important.”
Daniel Pearl, who was kidnapped and murdered when he traveled to Pakistan to investigate links between Al-Qaeda and the shoe bomber Richard Reid, is perhaps one of the most famous examples of journalists who fatally risked their lives to uncover and report news, but there are countless more who suffer similar fates. Reporters Without Borders, which tracks human rights abuses of journalists all over the world, estimates that so far this year 11 journalists have been killed and 163 are imprisoned.
In 2009, countries such as Denmark, Finland and Norway ranked highest on the Press Freedom Index in 2009, while countries who ranked the lowest included Iran, Burma and North Korea. Fortunately for the United States it jumped 16 places to rank 20, placing it alongside the United Kingdom and Luxembourg. Still, Reporters Without Borders Secretary-General Jean-François Julliard insists, “Press freedom must be defended everywhere in the world with the same energy and the same insistence.”
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