President Obama signed the Daniel Pearl Freedom of the Press Act Monday morning (5/17), joined by six family members of the Wall Street Journal reporter slain by Islamic extremists.
The president said that he was instructing the 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,” he said.
Daniel Pearl was kidnapped and decapitated by terrorists in Pakistan in 2002, while investigating a story on the Al Queda financial network.
The most excited person at the 15-minute ceremony In the White House Oval Office was seven-year old Adam Pearl, who received a presidentially-imprinted yo-yo, M&M packet, and stamp.
Adam was born three months after his father’s murder. He will mark his eighth birthday on May 28 and was sharply dressed in a blue blazer, gray slacks, red tie and white shirt.
Other members of the family present were Daniel Pearl’s widow Mariane, father Judea and mother Ruth, and sisters Michelle and Tamara.
Obama had words of praise for the entire 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-Pasadena) and Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn), who were the House and Senate sponsors of the bill, participated in the ceremony.
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.
Judea and Ruth Pearl, reflect on the life of their son, Daniel, and last words in this webcam video shot 1/18/2007 in the kitchen of their Encino, CA home.