May 17th, 2010
12:31 PM ET
12 years ago

Obama signs Daniel Pearl Freedom of the Press Act


President Obama signs the Daniel Pearl Freedom of Press Act while widow Mariane Pearl (L) and son Adam Daniel Pearl (2nd-L), stand nearby. (Getty Images)

Washington (CNN) - President Barack Obama signed legislation Monday expanding the federal government's role in monitoring global freedom of the press.

Obama signed the Daniel Pearl Freedom of the Press Act, which requires a greater examination of the status of press freedoms in different countries in the State Department's Annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices.

Among other things, the State Department will now be required to "identify countries in which there were violations of press freedom; determine whether the government authorities of those countries participate in ... or condone the violations; and report the actions such governments have taken to preserve the safety and independence of the media," according to a statement from Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Connecticut, one of the bill's primary sponsors.

This is a "piece of legislation that sends a strong signal about our core values when it comes to freedom of the press," Obama said shortly before signing the bill in the Oval Office. It "puts us clearly on the side of journalistic freedom."

The measure is named for Daniel Pearl, a Wall Street Journal reporter who was murdered by extremists in Pakistan shortly after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Members of Pearl's family attended the signing ceremony.

Pearl's death "reminded us of how valuable a free press is, and reminded us there are those who would go to any length to silence journalists around the world," Obama said. There are "enormously courageous journalists and bloggers ... (on) the front lines against tyranny and oppression."

The Committee to Protect Journalists reports that 811 journalists have been killed worldwide while doing their jobs since 1992, the year the organization started keeping track of such incidents. Most of the casualties have come in Iraq, where 142 members of the media have lost their lives.

Filed under: President Obama
soundoff (36 Responses)
  1. Henry Miller, Libertarian

    Once again, American arrogance rears its ugly head.

    It's none of our business how other countries treat journalists! Sure, on a personal level, we can condemn countries who abuse their own citizens and citizens of other countries; on a personal level we can express our contempt for governments so insecure that they have to resort to lying to their own people and to the rest of the world.

    But when the American government does that, it simply expresses a condescending, self-righteous, contempt for the rest of the world.

    May 17, 2010 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  2. doug

    This is pathetic, Sen. Dodd running the press in other countries for a State Dept. report. Mr. Pearl should be honored but not for congressional politics in a zero sum poilitical game.

    May 17, 2010 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  3. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    He was a journalist looking into a story that affected Americans. The terrorists killed him because he was an American and a Jew. When we conduct foreign policy, it shows out values. This legislation also shows that we value a free press, and that we intend to protect it as well.

    May 17, 2010 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  4. Average American

    I cannot wait to see how the Obama haters spin this!

    May 17, 2010 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  5. Stacie

    Oh my gosh! Look at how old Daniel Pearl's son is. Just seeing his wife and child make me very sad all over again. We need to protect the members of the press so we get accurate information about world events. If we don't have a free press, governments are able to manipulate us.

    I dispise Fox and am not a big fan of Al-Jazeera, but they have a right to exist. ALL reporters have a right to be safe while they do their jobs.

    May 17, 2010 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  6. Dave, Illinois

    Since Obama's reich controls the MSM over here, why not extend control overseas as well? You Lib lemmings that voted this group into office should be kicked!

    May 17, 2010 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  7. BillE

    Kinda reeks of the Bush era "our way or the highway' type of attitude.

    May 17, 2010 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  8. IKHAN

    Hi Larry,
    Good morning folks.
    Mr.Pearle's bigoted view of the world is well known.
    Naom Chomsky, the well known & respected Jewish-American professor & writer was stopped at the border by the Israeli authorities & barred from entering Israel.
    Why? Because he dares to tell the truth to both Israelis & Americans about whats really going on in the occupied territories.He was to deliver a lecture at a university. We Americans wouldn't of course hear about this on our media.
    Well so much for Mr.Pearle's freedom of press movement.
    Our free press would also not allow Americans to hear what the good & courageous Jews are saying in America like the Jewish Voice for Peace' or in Israel like the' Coalition of Women for Peace' & other groups struggling to be heard over the cacophony of propaganda constantly directed at us by their govt.

    May 17, 2010 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  9. Duck Fallas

    In the U.S., the press is free to lie, distort, and invent stories to promote a radical political agenda. It's called Fux News.

    May 17, 2010 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  10. Cevin, WI

    It seems to me that the article described the law as a tool to keep this on our radar screen. I'm not sure why anyone's getting overly excited about this. I don't think there's arrogance involved. It's not an effort to "force" democracy on anyone. It's only an effort to track how free a nation's press is to report the truth.

    "Brutal" dictators never allow a free press since it is at the heart of any firm. It can sometimes lead to some damaging and embarrassing moments of our own, but it helps to keep us honest.

    The review will be conducted by the State Department, and SHOULD be part of the overall analysis of each country since it can play such a large part in whether or not a country's decisions and actions are, or can be, influenced by its population. Whether or not the government can control the message going out plays a big part, and this affects every aspect of the State Department's role in our government.

    May 17, 2010 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  11. My Brother's Keeper

    I'm one of those liberal Democrats ...

    I have a 13 year old daughter and I'd crush the skull of any sex offender if they ever approached her. That said ... this Supreme Court ruling on INDEFINTE INCARCERATION ... after the criminal has served his/her sentence is WRONG ... it is unAmerican.

    Either we have the balls to mandate medical castration as punishment or we justify raising the sentence times ... BUT we do not violate the letter and spirit of THE LAW by whimsically deciding to keep someone locked up after they've done their time.

    On the topic of this Freedom of the Press bill .... this is big government and unnecessary. There will be some added cost to comply with this law. Who did the COST BENEFIT analysis? Chris Dodd is not going to be in the Senate anymore so why are we entertaining his pandering bill? This is what is wrong with politics.

    Mr. President, I'm behind you 100% but you've got to stop this type of nonsense.

    May 17, 2010 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |

    Another bad idea made into law. The press in this country is what we should monitor and maybe imprison the liars that hide behind the Constitution. Freedom of the press should not mean lie because you can, invade someone`s privacy, or make derogatory comments about people. I don`t mean just Fox(Faux) News but all media outlets especially local media

    May 17, 2010 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  13. Ben

    Seems like a good idea and also focus on press freedoms in the U.S. How would the State Department rate press freedoms here? The Obama Administration should not continue to subpoena and threaten to jail reporters in the U.S. over their sources or we will end up on our own watch-list along with China, North Korea and Venezuela.

    May 17, 2010 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  14. Petey

    Shouldn't that child be in school?

    May 17, 2010 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  15. rachel

    Wow seems you can read anything these days without the words of expanding the federal government's role.

    May 17, 2010 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  16. Ted Crawford

    How hypocritical can they get? They want to claim "freedom of the press" in other countries,while working to silence the conservative press here!!!

    May 17, 2010 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  17. Wisconsinite

    I really don't see a thing wrong with this, especially since the journalist it's named after was an American journalist who was murdered in another country while trying to do the job all journalists should be doing! But, as usual, the Rabid Righters are already coming out AGAINST something that's just common sense and is on the side of what's morally right. Of course we all know that the only reason the Rabid Right have to be against ANYTHING is because President Obama is FOR it!

    May 17, 2010 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  18. Nik Green

    Nobody knows who murdered Mr. Pearl, except of course the guilty parties and their accessories, who are still on the loose. The original (very grisly) videotape of the killing, if genuine, contains a glaring "error" on the part of the murderers: the forearms of two of the men, very briefly visible, indicated that these were fair skinned white people, as opposed to dark skinned middle easterners.

    A simple inconvenience such as this, which is counter to the propaganda, cannot be aired, because it dilutes the overall message disseminated by the Islamophobic powers-that-be, that "all Muslims are terrorists", or "people who are ore prone to carry out despicable acts". By this, they pander to our comfort zones, and allow us (the gullible) to believe that "the American public are being protected".

    May 17, 2010 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  19. Saad

    Most importantly, all my prayers and well wishes to Daniel Pearl's family. I wish it had not happened.

    #2: Freedom of Press act coming from a country that has a channel called Fox News. While Freedom of Press is essential to any country/society, too much of it can produce really detrimental results – even for the citizens of that country itself. Look at how much hate/anger Fox News puts in the hearts and minds of its followers and against who, against our own fellow Americans. Freedom of Press.... huh... guess it is a very delicate matter and now we are going worldwide with it!

    May 17, 2010 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  20. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    Daniel Pearl's only weapon was being a journalist, he had no gun to protect himself, but yet he was beheaded by terrorist. Thank you Mr. President, it's the right thing to do.

    May 17, 2010 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  21. phoenix86

    Typical Obama move. We will monitor, but do NOTHING (unless of course we find something wrong with one of our allies).

    May 17, 2010 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  22. Angus McDugan

    You know... President Obama supports Arizona's new immigration law by the fact that he is not doing anything regarding the exact same Federal law already on the books. Why doesn't Obama seek to change the laws and support the mass immigration of Mexico's citizens to America? If he really loved the Hispanic people he would address the law right now so that Arizona would not have to enforce the federal law that Obama seems to like very much. Otherwise he would change it!!!!!!

    May 17, 2010 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  23. Chuck

    Commenter, Doug is part of the problem.

    Ignorance is the problem to be more specific.

    May 17, 2010 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  24. Peejay

    I think it IS our business how they treat OUR journalists!

    May 17, 2010 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  25. awaitingliberalizationbyCNN

    Would one of those violations be cutting off a news outlet that disagrees with the president of the formerly most powerful nation on earth, like Obatface did with Fox? Pretty hypocritical once again but no suprise regarding the fake in the White House.

    May 17, 2010 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
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