Amal Clooney appeared on a panel at the United Nations on Tuesday, talking about the dangers that journalists face reporting in difficult political climates around the world. Truly, a woman after my own heart.
“Our research targets laws being used every day to punish journalists for their work,” Clooney said according to People, describing her job as a human rights lawyer. “Laws like criminal libel, vague or overboard hate speech laws, so-called fake news laws, and laws that muzzle the media by imposing arbitrary conditions on ownership, accreditation and funding.”
Clooney spoke of the detrimental effect that leaders (cough, Donald Trump) are having on press freedom in the U.S., which has consistently declined since he took office. Currently, we’re ranked 48 on the 2019 World Press Freedom Index, down three places since 2018. As Reporters Without Borders wrote in its assessment, Trump wields the term “fake news” against any reporting he doesn’t like, and has referred to the press the “enemy of the American people.” From RWB:
At least one White House correspondent has hired private security for fear of their life after receiving death threats, and newsrooms throughout the country have been plagued by bomb threats and were the recipients of other potentially dangerous packages, prompting journalism organizations to reconsider the security of their staffs in a uniquely hostile environment.
In the past, these muzzling laws were thought to apply more to other countries than the U.S., in which freedom of the press is supposed to be a constitutionally protected right. As Clooney said:
“Such laws are part of a rising drumbeat of legal assault on journalists and they are particularly open to abuse when senior officials vilify the media, creating a toxic environment in which individual journalists are incredibly vulnerable to attack,” Clooney said.
Clooney attacked Trump in a similar fashion during July’s Global Conference for Media Freedom, saying that,
“Today, the country of James Madison has a leader who vilifies the media, making honest journalists all over the world more vulnerable to abuse.
“With authoritarianism, isolationism and nationalism gaining ground, the relevance of international institutions and respect for intentional norms are seriously in question.”
She’s not wrong!