LONDON: Human rights lawyer Amal Clooney has criticized Australia’s actions against journalists and says they could be used by leaders of more oppressive countries as an excuse for further clamp downs on press freedoms. 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. 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 practice what we preach’’ but he congratulated Senator Payne for turning up.
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. (Agencies)