WORLD PRESS FREEDOM DAY; Congressional Record Vol. 161, No. 64
(Senate - April 30, 2015)

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[Pages S2561-S2562]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []

                        WORLD PRESS FREEDOM DAY

  Mr. CARDIN. Mr. President, today I commemorate World Press Freedom 
Day 2015 on May 3, 2015--a day reserved to celebrate the value of 
freedom of press and the critical role it serves in creating a more 
free and open society. In its highest forms, the press does not simply 
inform, but brings attention to atrocities around the world, provides 
checks on authoritarian governments, and catalyzes better governance.
  The United States has recognized the great value of freedom of the 
press from its inception and in its Declaration of Universal Rights, 
the United Nations acknowledged the profound role of this fundamental 
right. On May 3, 1991, in the Windhoek Declaration, the U.N. 
recommitted itself to this important cause with a call to arms to 
protect the right of the press ``to hold opinions without interference 
and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media 
and regardless of frontiers.''
  A pluralistic and free press is essential to the development and 
maintenance of democracy as well as economic development. According to 
Freedom House's 2014 Freedom of the Press Index, only 14 percent of the 
world's citizens live in countries that enjoy a free press. In every 
other corner of the world, freedom of the press is threatened by 
governments that want to restrict freedom of expression and association 
by harassing and intimidating journalists. According to Reporters 
Without Borders, 69 journalists and 19 citizen journalists were killed 
in 2014 in connection with their collection and dissemination of news 
and information, and the Committee to Protect Journalists, found that 
in that same year the 3 deadliest countries for journalists on 
assignment were Syria, Ukraine, and Iraq. Today we honor all 
journalists who have been imprisoned or killed while seeking to tell a 
story that deserves to be told and needs to be heard.
  The weekend of April 25 marked the 1-year anniversary of the arrest 
of three independent journalists and six bloggers in Ethiopia known as 
the ``Zone 9 bloggers.'' The reporters, who published articles 
criticizing the government, have been charged under Ethiopia's Anti-
Terrorism Proclamation, seemingly in connection with their writings. 
They remain in jail to this day, their trial once again postponed until 
after the Ethiopian elections. Unfortunately, this sort of imprisonment 
is not an isolated incident in Ethiopia. According to Human Rights 
Watch, Ethiopia has the second largest number of journalists in exile 
and the largest number of imprisoned journalists and bloggers in all of 
sub-Saharan Africa.
  I and a number of my colleagues wrote Secretary Kerry in March about 
our ongoing concern with efforts by the

[[Page S2562]]

Ethiopian government to restrict freedom of speech and association in 
Ethiopia. In recent months numerous media publications have closed amid 
widespread harassment, and the Ethiopian government continues to 
control most television and radio broadcasting content. Today, I again 
urge the Ethiopian government to respect freedom of expression and 
freedom of the press--especially in advance of the May 24 elections. 
Anti-terrorism laws must not be used for political gain or to stifle 
the expression of dissenting political views.
  The continued imprisonment of Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, 
who remains in Iran on alleged espionage charges, is another example of 
the immense duress that journalists around the world endure. Mr. 
Rezaian, an esteemed and respected professional journalist, has been 
imprisoned in Tehran since July 22. As the United States and Iran 
continue to negotiate a nuclear agreement, it is important that we not 
forget about Jason Rezaian, an Iranian-American who deserves to be 
  And, finally, the world will never forget the brutal and barbaric 
murder of American reporter James Foley by the Islamic State this past 
summer. His death reminds us that it is not only oppressive governments 
that threaten journalists, but terrorist organizations as well. Foley's 
life's work chronicling the war torn countries of Afghanistan and Syria 
speaks to a deep commitment to the truth, a desire to tell the story of 
the world's most vulnerable and the right to freedom of the press even 
in the gravest of circumstances. This is what freedom of the press is 
all about.
  As witnesses to the good that free press provides to society and the 
threat that it faces, we have a responsibility to stand against 
injustice, to tell the stories of these brave journalists and others in 
the hopes of securing their freedom and preventing future tragedies 
from occurring. As George Mason said in 1776, ``The freedom of the 
press is one of the greatest bulwarks of liberty, and can never be 
restrained but by despotic governments.'' On World Press Freedom Day 
2015, the United States and governments around the world must recommit 
themselves to protecting press freedom in order to enable democracy to 
flourish and good governance to prevail.