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California Legislature recognises World Press Freedom Day

(IPI/IFEX)- VIENNA, May 1, 2012 - The California Legislature yesterday passed a resolution recognising May 3 as World Press Freedom Day 2012 and encouraging state legislatures throughout the United States to take similar action.

California State Senator Joe Simitian, who introduced Senate Joint Resolution 22, presented a copy to members of the Sacramento Press Club on the floor of the California Senate in a ceremony that followed the body's vote to approve the resolution.

The state's other legislative chamber, the California Assembly, passed the measure last week after receiving a letter of support from the Vienna-based global press freedom organisation the International Press Institute (IPI), which worked with Simitian's office to secure passage.

The resolution recognizes the role a free press plays within California and throughout the world in sustaining and monitoring democracy, contributing to greater accountability in government, and promoting civic participation and economic development. It also commends journalists around the world for their role in promoting accountability in government, honours those who stay committed to the profession despite numerous threats to their safety, and remembers journalists who have lost their lives because of their job.

IPI Acting Deputy Director Anthony Mills and CNN anchor Jim Clancy, representing IPI's North American Committee, joined Simitian yesterday morning in a press conference to discuss the resolution.

Simitian pointed to an estimate by the U.S.-based non-governmental organisation Freedom House that only 15 percent of the world's citizens live in countries that enjoy a free press, a number he described as “staggering”. He noted that recognition of World Press Freedom Day in 2012 was particularly important, given that 43 journalists have already lost their lives this year. According to IPI's Death Watch, which measures the number of journalists killed each year while on assignment or because they were deliberately targeted for their reporting or for being a journalist, that tally makes 2012 one of the deadliest years for journalists so far in recent memory.

Mills, describing three examples on which IPI is focusing this year as it commemorates World Press Freedom Day – the stories of Mexican journalist Marcela Turati, Somali journalist Mohamed Ibrahim and Pakistani journalist Umar Cheema – noted: “In too many countries, journalists continue to be persecuted for their reporting. Each year dozens are killed; still more are beaten, imprisoned, kidnapped, tortured or intimidated in other ways.”

He stressed that the single biggest problem is impunity. “In the vast number of cases, those who masterminded killings, those who ordered killings, those who paid for killings, are never brought to justice”, he said.

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Read the full story and the California Senate Joint Resolution

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