Amal Clooney has used an awards speech to warn that the press is “under attack like never before” and appeared to draw a link between Trump’s attacks on the press and the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Human rights lawyer Clooney, wife of Hollywood star George, made the remarks after being named Global Citizen of the Year at the United Nations Correspondents Association Awards this week.
“It feels like an important, even essential time, to honour responsible journalism,” she told guests at the New York event on Wednesday.
“Journalism that takes time, tenacity, a commitment to finding reliable sources, digging deep and checking things over and over again, even if it means allowing another story to come out before yours.”
“We do not live in a post-truth world,” she later added to applause.
“We just need news that is based on truth and for that we need responsible journalists who are committed to exposing it and yet you the press are under attack like never before.
“You are being jailed at a higher rate than ever and you are dying while covering wars, not just because you walk, unarmed, into some of the most dangerous places on earth, but because you are being targeted for exposing crimes committed in war, for speaking the truth that perpetrators find the most difficult to hear.”
Clooney also took the opportunity to raise the case of Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, currently in prison in Myanmar, whom she represented at their trial earlier this year.
“As we sit here tonight two innocent reporters sit in a jail cell in Myanmar,” she said. “Wa Lone and Syaw Soo Oo were arrested a year ago while working on a Reuters story that the Government did not want to see printed.
“A story with photos of an execution of ten Rohingya men in Rakhine state where the UN says the gravest crimes under international law are being committed.
“A policeman tricked the journalists into coming to a cafe and when he got there he handed them rolled up documents and said: ‘Read these later when you get home.’
“But as the journalists walked out other officers were lying in wait to arrest them. And then comes part two of the plan: a show trial in which a conviction for the crime of possessing secret material was guaranteed.”
But she said something “extraordinary happened” at trial. “A policeman and prosecution star witness took to the stand and actually told the truth.
“He gave explosive testimony confirming that he heard a senior police chief tell subordinates to plant these documents and then stage the journalists’ arrest.
“And yet, instead of that testimony exonerating the defendants, the witness himself was charged, was himself subjected to a false conviction, and is now in prison.”
She went on: “In locking up these two journalists and a whistleblower, the authorities are of course signalling to others what can happen if you dare to tell the truth.
“The chilling effect is real and it has already been felt not only in Myanmar but further afield and, sadly, similar examples abound in autocratic regimes from North Korea, to Philippines, Hungary, Turkey and Brazil.
“The US president has given such regimes a green light and labelled the press in this country the enemy of the people. And of course, two months ago a Washington Post journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, walked into a consulate in Istanbul and was brutally tortured to death.”
Khashoggi, a critic of the Saudi regime, was killed on 2 October this year as he entered a Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, to obtain divorce documents ahead of his upcoming marriage to fiancee Hatice Cengiz.
World leaders continue to demand a full investigation into his death after Saudi offered several different explanations for it, eventually claiming it had been a rogue operation carried out by its own agents.
The Middle Eastern kingdom has said Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman did not order Khashoggi’s execution amid claims some of his close aides were part of a 15-man squad concerned in the killing.
Clooney also revealed she was from a family of journalists, with her mother a “lifelong” journalist and her farther-in-law a “veteran” of the trade, “and”, she added, “my husband has played one on TV”.