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Public Statements

Daniel Pearl Freedom Of The Press Act Of 2009

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. Mr. Speaker, I would like to yield myself such time as I may consume.

I rise in support of House Resolution 3714, the Daniel Pearl Freedom of the Press Act of 2009.

I want to thank the gentleman from California (Mr. Schiff), my good friend, and also my friend from Indiana (Mr. Pence), our conference Chair, for introducing this important legislation on an issue of growing international concern.

A free press is indispensable to an informed public, to government accountability, and to the efficiency and integrity of public and commercial institutions. Here in the United States we enjoy the benefits of a robust free press, protected by the First Amendment to our Constitution. But in many other parts of the world, telling the truth as a journalist is dangerous and an even deadly calling.

Sadly, this fact was underscored by the life and death of the person for whom this bill is named, the brave and accomplished Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. In 2002, while reporting in Pakistan, Pearl was kidnapped by violent Islamic extremists who chose to murder him on videotape, after compelling him to recite the fact of his Jewish religion on camera.

Whether the cause is extremism, corruption, political repression, or the dangers of reporting from conflict zones, journalists around the world face a rising tide of threats. So far this year, 68 journalists have been confirmed killed in the line of duty or because of their reporting. Nearly half of those, sadly, at least 30 journalists, were killed in the shocking election-related massacre in the southern Philippines on November 23. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, there has been a 9 percent increase over the 2008 levels in the imprisonment of journalists worldwide. The one-party regime in China continues to imprison the largest number of reporters of any one nation.

But the Iranian regime runs a very close second, and its closure of yet another newspaper last week is another sad reminder of the extent to which it has targeted independent and foreign media in the aftermath of the widespread election-related protests by the Iranian people.

And rounding out the shameful top three, Cuba suffers perhaps the greatest per capita levels of press repression. Even though it has only one-twelfth of the population of China, the Cuban regime imprisons roughly the same number of journalists. Just last month, state security agents detained and beat Cuban bloggers Yoani Sanchez, Claudia Cadelo, and Omar Luis Pardo Lazo as they were on their way to a peaceful march in Havana. What a sad irony that is.

To help address these and other outrages, the bill before us today would beef up press-related reporting in the State Department's annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. Among other issues, the expanded reports would describe the extent to which foreign governments are complicit in attacks on press freedoms and what steps are being taken to protect the media and to prosecute those who attack and murder journalists. This new reporting will help focus the sunlight of public scrutiny even more powerfully on these violators of basic rights.

I want to thank, again, Mr. Schiff and Mr. Pence for bringing forward this important legislation, which deserves our unanimous support.

Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

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