Amal Clooney, the wife of actor George Clooney, is a human rights lawyer and the U.K. government’s special envoy on media freedom. She delivered a speech at the Global Conference for Media Freedom in London last week where she declared that President Trump vilifies the press to the point that they are vulnerable worldwide. She wasn’t quite bold enough to name-check Trump directly but rest assured she delivered her message loud and clear.
Clooney used a reference to James Madison to make her point. It’s not often that America is referred to as “the country of James Madison”, is it?
“Today, the country of James Madison has a leader who vilifies the media, making honest journalists all over the world more vulnerable to abuse,” Clooney said.
She continued: “With authoritarianism, isolationism and nationalism gaining ground, the relevance of international institutions and respect for intentional norms are seriously in question.”
I do wonder why she felt the need to preface the word “journalists” with “honest”, though.
'When it comes to the right to a free press, we are seeing according to @freedomhouse the thirteenth consecutive year of decline across the globe.'
— Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (@FCDOGovUK) July 12, 2019
Listening to this clip from Reuters’ Twitter account, I hear some applause begin to break out. No doubt our European and Canadian betters enjoyed her attack on the American president. The governments of the UK and Canada are working together “to defend media freedom and improve the safety of journalists who report across the world” according to the conference’s website.
Amal Clooney slams Trump for vilifying press pic.twitter.com/D60hGzhi1s
— Reuters (@Reuters) July 11, 2019
Clooney also used her speech on Wednesday to criticize world leaders for what she described as their “collective shrug” over the 2018 murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, at the reported behest of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
She was named the Deputy Chair of the High Level Panel of Legal Experts – an independent body that will examine legal and policy initiatives that can be adopted to improve media freedom around the world. How lofty. She described the mission of the Panel:
The High Level Panel of Legal Experts brings together leading international experts on media freedom, including judges, lawyers and academics, from all over the world. I look forward to working alongside them to develop and advance legal frameworks that can help to protect media freedom around the world.
The list of lawyers on the Panel though includes some from countries with less than stellar records with freedom of the press. Russia, Colombia, and Turkey, for example, are included. I suggest the legal experts from those countries look into the problems in their own countries before trying to boss around the rest of the world.
Amal Clooney publicly criticized President Trump in December at the United Nations Correspondent Association Awards in New York.
“The U.S. President has given such [autocratic] regimes a green light and labeled the press in this country the ‘enemy of the people,’” she said at the time, according to USA Today.
Clooney is exhibiting behavior that led to the election of Donald Trump in 2016. While defending media freedom is important, her criticism of President Trump, even on the world stage, will fall on deaf ears. Trump doesn’t concern himself with making nice with the press. His way of speaking is what attracted many of his supporters to him in the first place. He isn’t interested in the status quo of any international norms or institutions. Blaming Trump for bad treatment (or worse) of journalists around the world is a stretch even for Mrs. Clooney. Maybe she decided to slam Trump in London after hanging with the Obamas in Italy last month, hosting them at their villa.I wonder if she asked former President Obama exactly what he did to support and defend the freedom of the media. We know he tapped the phones of reporters during his administration.