For almost two decades, World Press Freedom Day has served as a reminder of the vital importance of freedom of the press to human rights around the world. Journalists put their lives on the line every single day to bring us news from across the globe, including from countries with repressive regimes, overreaching governments, and war zones. Today is a day in which we celebrate the indispensable role played by journalists in exposing abuses of power and putting themselves in harm's way.
Any time a journalist is assaulted, it is an assault on all of us, and on the world's need for timely and accurate information. This year journalists have made incredible sacrifices, with many being beaten, targeted and sometimes killed. According to Reporters Without Borders, in 2011 67 journalists across the world were killed for bringing us free and fair information, and in 2012, 21 journalists have already lost their lives. According to Freedom House, only 14.5 percent of the world's inhabitants live in a country with a free press. This is unacceptable, and today we want take this opportunity to 'shine the light' on a country where being a journalist can be a death sentence.
In Syria, President Bashar al-Assad has cracked down on ordinary citizens and journalists alike, imposing a blackout on any independent, non-state sponsored reporting, barring foreign reporters from entering the country, and even detaining and attacking journalists who try to cover protests against his oppressive regime. So far, 10 journalists have died while reporting since November 2011, and the regime is currently imprisoning at least thirteen journalists and press freedom activists. I'm calling on the Assad government to release these captives immediately and end the media blackout.
Just last month, I introduced a resolution in the House condemning the killing of journalists in Syria and calling on the government to open the country up to independent and foreign news media and end its media blackout.
Mexico faces a different but no less dangerous situation -- just this week, the body of Mexican journalist Regina Martínez Pérez was found in her home, badly beaten and strangled to death. Pérez, a journalist of renown in Mexico for her fearless reporting on drug cartels and the links between organized crime and government officials, never hid her work or self-censored. But the death of a journalist in Mexico is not an uncommon occurrence -- since 2006, at least 40 journalists have been killed or disappeared, and those crimes remain largely unsolved. As a result of the brutalities against journalists, they have chosen to self-censor to protect themselves and as a result, their freedom and the freedom of all Mexican citizens has been greatly diminished. The Mexican authorities must investigate Pérez's murder to ensure that the murders are brought to justice, and improve the prosecution of all crimes against the press.
The United States must promote freedom in all its forms, because while many Americans take for granted the right to a free and independent press, for most of the world it is a constant struggle. And in the evolving digital media world, press freedom has to take on new mediums -- including advocacy and reporting on Twitter, Facebook, blogs and satellite channels.
Today, we pay tribute to journalists around the world, saluting their never-ending bravery and reflecting on the importance of their work to advance the most basic human right -- freedom.
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