LOS ANGELES (JTA) – President Obama will sign the Daniel Pearl Freedom of the Press Act into law, joined by six members and three generations of the slain journalist’s family.
The act, named in honor of the Wall Street Journal reporter kidnapped and decapitated by Islamic extremists in Pakistan in 2002, expands the examination of press freedom worldwide in the U.S. State Department’s annual human rights report. It will be signed into law Monday morning.
“Violators of press freedom throughout the world now know that they will be closely watched," Pearl’s father, Judea, said before leaving Los Angeles for Washington. "This is something our son Danny fought for all his life.”
Also participating in the White House ceremony will be Pearl’s widow, Mariane, and their son, Adam Daniel, who will mark his eighth birthday on May 28; his mother, Ruth; and sisters Michelle and Tamara.
Adam was born three months after the killing of his father, while the reporter was pursuing an investigative story on the al-Qaida financial network.
The new law mandates the State Department to identify countries in which there are violations of press freedom; determine whether the government authorities of those countries participate in, facilitate or condone the violations; and report the actions these governments have taken to preserve the safety and independence of the media and ensure the prosecution of those who attack or murder journalists.
Leading the legislative efforts to pass the bill was U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), according to Judea Pearl, an Israel-born UCLA professor emeritus in computer science and recognized as one of the world’s foremost experts in artificial intelligence. Additional key sponsors were Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) in the House and Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) in the Senate.
“In many parts of the world, the freedom of the press is the last – or even the only – safeguard against the complete erosion of all human rights,” Dodd said. “With this bill, we pay tribute to Daniel’s life and his work by shedding a bright light on this repression, and hope to prevent this sort of tragedy from ever happening again.”
Following their son’s murder, Judea and Ruth Pearl established the Daniel Pearl Foundation to further Daniel’s legacy of promoting cross-cultural understanding through a global program of journalism, music and innovative communication.