Diary

Obama signs Press Freedom Act, then refuses press questions

President Obama today signed the Press Freedom Act–and then refused to take questions from the press.

From CBS News:

May 17, 2010 2:25 PM
Press Freedom, Sure. But No Questions.
Posted by Chip Reid
There was some rich irony at the White House today — President Obama signed the Press Freedom Act, and then promptly refused to take any questions.

The new law expands the State Department’s annual human rights reports to include a description of press freedoms in each country. It seemed a good opportunity to showcase press freedom in this country.

Recall that last Friday the president refused to take any questions after delivering his angry statement on the oil spill in the Rose Garden. And he has not held a prime-time White House news conference in many months, despite much pleading from pundits and members of the media.

From WhiteHouise.gov:

Remarks by the President at the Signing of the Freedom of the Press Act
Oval Office
11:32 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Well, hello, everybody. I am very proud to be able to sign the Daniel Pearl Freedom of the Press Act, a piece of legislation that sends a strong signal about our core values when it comes to the freedom of the press.

All around the world there are enormously courageous journalists and bloggers who, at great risk to themselves, are trying to shine a light on the critical issues that the people of their country face; who are the frontlines against tyranny and oppression. And obviously the loss of Daniel Pearl was one of those moments that captured the world’s imagination because it reminded us of how valuable a free press is, and it reminded us that there are those who would go to any length in order to silence journalists around the world.
(…)
So we are very grateful to them. I’m grateful to the legislative leaders who helped to pass this. It is something that I intend to make sure our State Department carries out with vigor. And with that, I’m going to sign the bill.

(The bill is signed.)

There you go. Thank you, everybody. Appreciate it.

Q Speaking of press freedom, could you answer a couple of questions on BP?

THE PRESIDENT: You’re certainly free to ask them, Chip.

Q Will you answer them? How about a question on Iran?

THE PRESIDENT: We won’t be answering — I’m not doing a press conference today, but we’ll be seeing you guys during the course of this week. Okay?

Hypocrisy with the press, from this president? Shocking, I know.

Let’s look at the President’s prepared remarks:

And obviously the loss of Daniel Pearl…

Daniel Pearl was lost? We should find him!

Daniel Pearl wasn’t just a “loss.” He was murdered by Islamic terrorists, who videotaped it while cutting off his head. If you can’t say “Islamic terrorism” when signing the Daniel Pearl Freedom of the Press Act, well…

So this legislation, in a very modest way, I think puts us clearly on the side of journalistic freedom. I want to thank Adam Schiff in the House and Senator Chris Dodd in the Senate for their leadership.

I don’t trust anything Chris Dodd does–not financial reform and not even this.

There’s a dirty little secret about “human rights” acts similar to this one–a free society has more violations than a society that is not free. For example, the United States will always be worse off than North Korea? Why? Because, in the United States, we have a truly free press. North Korea does not have a free press. Who is there to investigate North Korea’s violations?

Let’s be real about this “Press Freedom Act.” Is the United States really going to wag its finger at China?

Never.

Iran?

Don’t be silly.

Here’s one comment from the Wall Street Journal article:

There is nothing to abide. The law (only two pages long… wow!) merely expands the reporting required by law under the Foreign Assistance Act.

The annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices must now include:

(1) a description of the status of freedom of the press in each country reviewed in the report;
(2) identification of countries in which there were violations of freedom of the press; and
(3) in countries where there are particularly severe violations of freedom of the press, whether such governments participate in or condone such violations and 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.

Here’s another WSJ comment:

Here’s how the State Dept Report on Press Freedom will Read:

China – VERY VERY VERY FREE
Iran – VERY VERY VERY FREE
Venezuela – VERY VERY VERY FREE

Sample from report: These countries have “VERY VERY VERY FREE Press.” However, it is most UNFORTUNATE that independent, and very naughty, persons have caused injury and loss of life to anyone making negative statements about the ruling governments and their officials. We have obtained signed statements from Kim Jong Il (and others) about how “Super-Honest” they’ve been and that they’ve implemented “Super-Freedom” policies.

Afterwords, the report will mention that FOX News should be investigated as complicit in genocide and war crimes………

The words of the act are simple enough, but in practice, I see this as a tool to attack Israel. As we all know from the United Nations, the only country on earth that commits human rights violations is Israel.

Israel actually has a very free press, and there are plenty of policy disagreements. But it will be shown that some Hamas reporter didn’t have full access to information, so too bad, Israel, no foreign aid for you!

Just as Holocaust memorial days in Europe are now used to attack the modern state of Israel, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if the “Daniel Pearl Freedom of the Press Act” is also used as a tool against the state of Israel.

It would surprise me if China or Russia or Iran or Venezuela or North Korea or Saudi Arabia are given even a single slap on the wrist.

SUMMARY:
It wouldn’t surprise me at all if this bill is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It all depends on the implementation by those who are in power. Do you trust them?