LOS ANGELES (JTA) – President Obama signed the Daniel Pearl Freedom of the Press Act, joined by six family members of the Wall Street Journal reporter slain by Islamic extremists.
The president said Monday morning that he was instructing the U.S. State Department to vigorously follow and report on violations of press freedom anywhere in the world, as provided in the act.
“This puts us clearly on the side of journalistic freedom,” Obama said.
Daniel Pearl was kidnapped and decapitated by terrorists in Pakistan in 2002 while investigating a story on the al-Qaida financial network.
Among those on hand for the 15-minute ceremony in the White House Oval Office was Pearl’s son, Adam, who received a yo-yo and M&M packet imprinted with the presidential seal. Adam, who will mark his eighth birthday later this month, was born three months after his father’s murder.
Other members of the family present were Pearl’s widow, Mariane; his parents, Judea and Ruth; and sisters Michelle and Tamara.
Obama praised the Pearl family for being so “outspoken and courageous,” adding that with the new law Daniel Pearl’s legacy lives on.
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 such governments have taken to preserve the safety and independence of the media and ensure the prosecution of individuals who attack or murder journalists.
“This is a very significant and emotional event for us,” said Judea Pearl, a UCLA professor emeritus in computer science. “President Obama’s signature assures us that violators of press freedom throughout the world now know that they will be closely watched. That is something our son Danny fought for all his life.”
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn), the House and Senate sponsors of the bill, participated in the ceremony.