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New Yorker editor delivers memorial lecture for journalist Daniel Pearl, stresses importance of freedom of expression

New Yorker editor David Remnick came “squinting into the California sun” today, as he put it, making a rare trip to UCLA from the East Coast.

But he noted that a particularly important occasion brought him to campus  — to deliver a speech in honor of slain journalist Daniel Pearl.

Addressing a packed crowd in Korn Convocation Hall, Remnick called the Wall Street Journal writer “the ultimate rootless cosmopolitan,” commenting on the soulfulness of Pearl’s writing.

Remnick also talked about what he called the “central obsession of (Pearl’s) personal life- freedom of expression.” Remnick touched on the pitfalls and challenges facing free speech and journalists worldwide, from China to the Arab Spring to the United States.

He criticized governments for jailing journalists and forcing countless others to censor themselves for fear of imprisonment or death.

The lecture was followed by an unscripted question and answer session, during which Remnick responded to audience members’ questions about hot-button issues such as the Republican debates and the online anti-piracy bills in Congress.

He repeatedly spoke of the Internet’s role in enhancing freedom of expression worldwide. Since the Internet is so vast, he said, any attempt to regulate it would be like “trying to regulate molecules.” In other words — impossible.

Remnick ended his speech with an appeal to journalists to continue exerting pressure on power.

“Life without liberty, without access to truth … is a famished life,” he said.

Reporting by Sonali Kohli, Bruin senior staff.

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