World Press Freedom Day

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World Press Freedom Day
by Michael Richard Pence

Congressional Record: May 4, 2009 (Extensions of Remarks) Page E1053-E1054. DOCID:cr04my09-46.

                        WORLD PRESS FREEDOM DAY


                            HON. MIKE PENCE

                               OF INDIANA


                          Monday, May 4, 2009

  Mr. PENCE. Madam Speaker, I come to the floor today in support of
World Press Freedom Day, celebrated on the 3rd day of May each year. I
do so with a profound sense of humility and with a sense of privilege
about being able to come to the floor to speak in support of freedom of
the press around the world.
  World Press Freedom Day has been observed for 16 years now and serves
as a reminder to us all of the vital importance of this core freedom.
It is a day in which we celebrate the indispensable role played by
journalists in exposing abuses of power, while at the same time we
sound the alarm about the growing number of journalists that are still
being silenced by death or jailed as they attempt to report on
important issues of the day and bring to light information in the
public interest.
  Since this day was first celebrated, 692 journalists have been
killed. The majority of victims were local reporters covering topics
such as crime, corruption, and national security in their home
countries. Adding to this tragic figure are the hundreds more each year
who face intimidation, censorship, and arbitrary arrest--guilty of
nothing more than a passion for truth and a tenacious belief that a
free society depends on an informed citizenry. In every corner of the
globe--from Iran to Zimbabwe, Burma to Pakistan, Cuba and Venezuela--
there are journalists being actively harassed and exercising self-
censorship because of threats and intimidation from repressive regimes.
  As part of combating this intimidation and censorship, Mr. Adam
Schiff of California and I recently introduced the Daniel Pearl Freedom
of Press Act. As many will remember, Daniel Pearl was kidnapped and
murdered by terrorists in Pakistan, just 4 months after the September
11th attacks.
  At the time of his kidnapping, Pearl served as the South Asia Bureau
Chief of the Wall Street Journal, and was based in Mumbai, India. He
went to Pakistan as part of an investigation into the alleged links
between Richard Reid, the shoe bomber, Al Qaeda and Pakistan's Inter-
Services Intelligence, ISI. He was subsequently beheaded by his
captors. This legislation is dedicated to Daniel Pearl, the many that
have gone before him, and those that still face such dangers today. The
legislation seeks to highlight and promote freedom of the press by
establishing an annual State Department report on the status of press
freedom in every country in the world and create a grant program aimed
at broadening and strengthening the independence of journalists and
media organizations.
  Now, more than ever, the defense of the freedom of the press must
continue. Here at home, the Constitution of the United States provides:
"Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech, or
of the press." Not since those words were adopted has this body passed
a law to ensure the freedom of the press. Last month, the House passed
the Free Flow of Information Act of 2009, legislation I was honored to
introduce with Representative Rick Boucher of Virginia. The bill
provides a qualified privilege of confidential sources to journalists--
which is sadly missing in Federal law--and enables reporters to shield
sources in most instances from disclosure. I urge its swift passage by
our colleagues in the Senate.
  While it is my great hope that a Federal Media Shield bill will soon
be signed into law here at home, the struggle for freedom of the press
is much more primitive in its evolution in many parts of the world. And
for that reason we must stand in solidarity with all those around the
globe who love freedom and continue to strain at the bonds of tyranny
and oppression on this day of remembrance.
  On this day, we remember reporters like Roxana Saberi. Miss Saberi is
a 31-year-old American journalist who was arrested in February 2009,
and is being held in Iran on charges of espionage, which her lawyer and
the U.S. Department of State call baseless. Saberi is a freelance
journalist who moved to Iran 6 years ago and reports for NPR, the BBC,
and other news organizations. A true representative of this melting pot
that is America, she grew up in Fargo, North Dakota, the daughter of
Reza Saberi, who was born in Iran, and Akiko Saberi, who is from Japan.
  As we learn of cases like Miss Saberi, we understand the stakes that
are at risk here. We understand why oppressive regimes like that of
Iran want so desperately to muzzle the unfiltered reporting of
journalists like Saberi. And we understand why it is so important to
cherish and protect freedom of the press as a vital check on abuses of
power. Today, we call on the government of Iran to free Miss Saberi,
hospitalized in her desperate attempt to win her freedom with a hunger
strike that might appeal to the conscience of her oppressor where her
valid legal arguments did not.
  As a conservative who believes in limited government, I believe the
only check on government power in real time is a free and independent
press. A free press ensures the flow of information to the public,
and let me say, during a time when the role of government in our lives
and in our enterprises seems to grow every day--both at home and
abroad--ensuring the vitality of a free and independent press is more
important than ever.
  I salute the bravery of reporters and press outlets around the world.
I urge you to stand firm and take heart. The U.S. House of
Representatives stands firmly behind your right to increased freedoms;
soon we hope to see this right enshrined in our public law, and stand
in solidarity with those on the front lines of the worldwide fight for
freedom of the press.

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).

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