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Amal Clooney to help repeal 'draconian' anti-press laws as UK special envoy on media freedom

Amal Clooney has been made a special envoy on media freedom by the UK Foreign Office and will head up a panel of legal experts looking to repeal “draconian” anti-press laws abroad.

The human rights lawyer, and wife of Hollywood actor George, is working alongside Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt to establish the panel, which she will co-chair, with members to be announced in the coming months.

All, including Clooney, will carry out the work on a pro-bono basis.

Clooney and Hunt agreed the plan at a G7 summit held in France today, where representatives from the world’s seven leading economies met.

It comes after attacks on the press have become more widespread around the world, with one press freedom group putting last year’s death toll for journalists killed as a result of their work at 80, and another at 94.

Among them were Washington Post columnist Jamal KhashoggiSlovak data journalist Jan Kuciak and Bulgarian TV journalist Victoria Marinova.

The panel will also offer advice to governments who want to strengthen press freedom laws, “encourage” others to ensure existing laws and obligations are enforced and promote “best practice and model legislation to protect a vibrant free press”, according to the Foreign Office.

Clooney used a UN correspondents awards speech in December to warn that the press was “under attack like never before”. She is also part of the legal counsel representing Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo.

The pair are currently appealing a seven-year prison sentence in Myanmar after reporting on the massacre of Rohingya Muslims in the country.

Said Clooney: “Through my legal work defending journalists I have seen first-hand the ways in which reporters are being targeted and imprisoned in an effort to silence them and prevent a free media.

“I welcome the UK Government’s focus on this issue at a time when journalists are being killed and imprisoned at record levels all over the world and I look forward to working on new legal initiatives that can help to ensure a more effective international response.

“The global campaign on media freedom aims to shine a spotlight on media abuses and reverse the trend of violence against journalists.”

Hunt added: “Violence against journalists has reached alarming levels globally and we cannot turn a blind eye.

“The media has a crucial role to play in holding the powerful to account. There is no escaping the fact that draconian and outdated laws around the world are being used to restrict the ability of the media to report the truth.

“Amal Clooney’s leading work on human rights means she is ideally placed to ensure this campaign has real impact for journalists and the free societies who depend on their work.

“She will use her expertise to chair a panel comprising the world’s best legal minds to develop and promote legal mechanisms to prevent and reverse media abuses.”

The Foreign Office will co-host an International Conference on Media Freedom in the UK on 10 and 11 of July alongside the Canadian Government.

Picture: Reuters/Stephane Mahe

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