Celebrity human rights lawyer Amal Clooney has called out the Australian Federal Police’s raids on journalists and the lack of media freedom in the country.
Speaking at the Defend Media Freedom conference in London on Wednesday, Clooney said there is a stark difference between a belief and an action when it comes to a free press. She was addressing ministers including Australia’s foreign minister Marise Payne, UK’s foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt and Canada’s foreign minister Chrystia Freeland.
“All governments say they believe in a free press – the right is even enshrined in North Korea’s constitution,” she told the conference, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. “What matters is enforcement of this right.”
Clooney, who is also the UK’s special envoy on media freedom, said the actions in Australia could lead other world leaders to follow their lead.
“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 used as an excuse to clamp down even further on journalists,” Clooney told the Sydney Morning Herald at the conference.
“I think journalists all over the world are less safe if the rhetoric or even policies or laws in states that are supposed to be free are actually a threat to journalism in that country.”
The federal police raided the home of a News Corp political journalist in June over a story that included leaked documents showing a government proposal to spy on the citizens of Australia. Following this, the federal police raided Australia’s public broadcaster, the ABC, in relation to leaked documents that alleged the Australian special forces engaged in unlawful killings and gross misconduct in Afghanistan.
It was then revealed the federal police accessed the metadata of ABC journalists 58 times. According to the ABC, police records reveal warrants were issued on two journalists in 2017 and 2018 and there were dozens of metadata requests.
Both the ABC and News Corp are taking the Australian federal police to court, the ABC reported.
Now, the world is also paying attention.
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