Amal Clooney’s swipe at Australia

Ms Clooney’s remarks at the Global Conference for Media Freedom in London were in response to Foreign Minister Marise Payne’s earlier address and put the minister in an uncomfortable position overnight.

Ms Payne had said Australia supported press freedoms but there needed to be a sensible balance to protect the national interest.

But Ms Clooney later responded: “What happens in a country like Australia or the UK or the US will be looked at by every other leader in the world and potentially be used as an excuse to clamp down even further on journalists,’’ she said.

“Journalists all around the world are less safe if the rhetoric, or even policies or laws, of states that are supposed to be free are actually a threat to journalists in those countries.”

The Australian Federal Police raids on the ABC and a News Corp journalist made headlines around the world and has shaken Australia’s international reputation for having a free press.

This week it also emerged that the AFP also demanded the travel records of a journalist from airline Qantas.

RELATED: The stories the AFP didn’t want you to read

British foreign secretary and Tory leadership candidate Jeremy Hunt said that any country using a security excuse for media clampdowns could be used by repressive regimes all over the world.

‘’So it’s absolutely essential: draw that line in the right place and do so in a way that we can defend (it),” Mr Hunt said.

He said countries that believe in open societies “have to practise what we preach’’ but he congratulated Senator Payne for turning up.

Amal Clooney and Britain’s Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt attend a discussion at the Global Conference on Press Freedom on July 10, 2019 in London, England. Picture: Leon Neal/Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

During her remarks, Ms Clooney also accused world leaders on Wednesday of failing to protect journalists and responding with “a collective shrug” over the slaying of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi.

Ms Clooney, the British government’s envoy on media freedom, said at a conference on press freedom that “journalists are under attack like never before,” not just while covering wars but for exposing crime and corruption.

“The vast majority of these murders go unpunished,” she said, adding that “world leaders responded with little more than a collective shrug” to Khashoggi’s killing by agents close to Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Khashoggi, a columnist for The Washington Post, was killed inside Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul last year.

According to the United Nations cultural body UNESCO, 99 media workers were killed worldwide in 2018.

The London conference where Ms Clooney spoke was called by UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt and Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland with the aim of improving protection for journalists around the world.

The gathering announced the founding of a global fund to provide training, legal support and other resources for journalists in danger zones, administered by the UN cultural body.

It’s unclear how much money the fund will have; Britain committed £3 million ($A5.3 million) and Canada has earmarked $CA1 million ($A1 million).

Politicians, officials, activists and journalists from more than 100 countries attended the two-day meeting, but two Russian news outlets were banned.

Human rights barrister Amal Clooney is also the British government’s envoy on media freedom. Picture: Leon Neal/Getty Images

Human rights barrister Amal Clooney is also the British government’s envoy on media freedom. Picture: Leon Neal/Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

The British government said Russian news agency Sputnik and state-owned TV network RT, formerly known as Russia Today, were excluded because of their alleged “active role in spreading disinformation”.

RT was censured last year by Britain’s broadcast regulator for breaking UK impartiality rules in its coverage of the poisoning of a Russian ex-spy in England.

In a pointed swipe at the British government, the network said: “It takes a particular brand of hypocrisy to advocate for freedom of press while banning inconvenient voices and slandering alternative media.”

Organisers did not release a full list of conference participants but said delegations were expected from nations with dire press freedom records, such as Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

Britain’s Mr Hunt told the attendees that “media freedom is not a Western value but a universal value”. “The strongest safeguard against the dark side of power is accountability and scrutiny,” he said.

Mr Hunt said countries that silenced journalists and freedom of the press must be made to pay a “diplomatic price”. He and singled out China, which routinely censors the internet, as an example of a country where “the situation continues to deteriorate”.

Mr Hunt also criticised Donald Trump’s verbal attacks on journalists, whom the US President has branded “enemies of the people”.

“I wouldn’t use the language President Trump used, and I wouldn’t agree with it,” he said. “We have to remember that what we say can have an impact in other countries where they can’t take press freedom for granted.”

Ms Clooney also took aim at Mr Trump, saying “the country of James Madison” — one of America’s founding fathers and a champion of a free press — “has a leader today who vilifies the media”.

With AP


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