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What’s Behind Jeremy Hunt’s Choice of Amal Clooney as UK ‘Media Freedom’ Ambassador?


IMAGE: Jeremy Hunt and Amal Clooney campaigning for ‘Media Freedom’ this week.

Nina Cross
21st Century Wire

As Julian Assange faces likely imminent expulsion from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt announced the appointment of Amal Clooney as the country’s new  ‘Media Freedom Ambassador’.  The timing cannot be ignored.  Within hours of the WikiLeaks warning over Twitter of Assange’s likely expulsion and possible subsequent arrest, the British government, with the support of the corporate media, is attempting to dazzle the public with a star-studded campaign celebrating ‘freedom of the press.’

The coinciding of the two events may or may not be a twist of fate, but by occurring at the same time they reveal a degree of fakeness in Hunt’s concern for media freedom.  Amid a media symphony, he announced an attention-grabbing campaign, while staying completely silent on his government’s treatment of WikiLeaks founder Assange which is by now widely recognised as a direct attack on press freedom.

Surely Hunt cares.  After all he has promoted press freedom numerous times in the past:

“But none of us would wish to live in a country where newspapers are muzzled or controlled. A media willing and able to investigate wrongdoing, expose failures and criticise the mighty, provides one of the strongest defences against corruption and arbitrary state power.”

However, such rhetoric does not easily reconcile with Hunt’s actions or inaction on this issue.  What has been Hunt’s part in a calculated plot to silence journalists who expose ‘the mighty‘  and publish documents exposing war crimes?  In 2015, a United Nations panel found Julian Assange’s detention to be arbitrary and unlawful.  Since then, Assange has remained in the embassy in London for fear of being arrested by UK authorities, and then extradited to the US where he might face life in prison – for what Jeremy Hunt has defined as journalism.

In the commercial for what Hunt calls the ‘first ever ministerial-level media freedom conference’  this year, the words ‘you can’t kill the truth’  would appear to mark exactly what the US and British governments are trying to do by silencing Assange. Watch:

Interestingly, nowhere in the UK government’s press release on this new initiative does it mention the state persecution, harassment and gagging of journalists in the US, UK or NATO member states. It’s as if this issue has been completely externalised, despite the fact that the UK remains one of the worst-ranked countries in Europe according to the RSF 2018 Press Freedom Index.

A ‘white hat’ propaganda campaign?

The face fronting Hunt’s campaign is none other than celebrity lawyer and transatlantic socialite, Amal Clooney.

Certainly, Clooney is a useful face to front this UK government public relations initiative, given her background as a human rights lawyer, and married to Hollywood actor George Clooney, and no doubt she is likely to know a bit about PR from her husband’s promotion of the White Helmets.  Although described by the US and UK governments as heroes pulling civilians from buildings bombed by the Syrian government and its allies, the White Helmets have been exposed as a propaganda vehicle for violent Islamist extremists, sponsored by NATO and Gulf States, to violently overthrow the Syrian government in a regime change operation.  Having Amal Clooney front a campaign to inspire a media that  ‘provides one of the strongest defences against corruption and arbitrary state power’ is laced with irony as she is linked to one of the biggest wartime deceptions in modern history: the White Helmets.

Even more concerning is the fact that Clooney has represented Julian Assange (pictured, left) yet you would not know it from any of this week’s festivities. It seems to have been conveniently airbrushed from the mainstream media coverage of ‘media freedom.’  The Guardian reported on Clooney’s new role and on Assange‘s anticipated expulsion in two separate articles, both on 5th April, but left out any connection between the two.  Considering Assange’s intensifying plight and Clooney’s supposed passion for press freedom, and their shared history, it is staggering that no one in the mainstream press could bring themself to join the dots, although some of her other cases were apparently worth mentioning.  But then Clooney appears to have forgotten Assange also.  In her speech on increased attacks on journalists, the clear and present threat to Assange did not register:

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…

Those with a pen in their hand should not feel a noose round their neck.

Clooney represented Assange during the attempt by the Swedish government to extradite him, but it is not clear when she stopped representing him.  It has been reported that her relationship with George Clooney led to her having a closer association with Hillary Clinton, and in 2016 the Clooneys hosted a $353,000-per-couple fundraiser during Clinton’s election campaign, showing that Amal Clooney is comfortable amongst America’s elite.

Wikileaks collected a catalogue of emails to and from Hilary Clinton that document her role in US foreign policy,  international conflicts and internal national corruption.  Clinton has accused Wikileaks of obtaining their data from hackers working for Russia, engaged in espionage, and suggested droning Julian Assange. All things considered, many have suggested that Amal’s estrangement from Assange may have been because of Clinton’s presidential campaign and the problems this might cause for Clooney among the America’s liberal elite set.

In an interview in 2016 Assange answers each accusation made by Clinton and addresses Wikileaks’ policy around sources and ethics. Watch:

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There’s still time. Perhaps Clooney will eventually rise to the occasion and speak out in support of Julian Assange and the rights of journalists and publishers – should he find himself soon on the doorstep of the Ecuadorian Embassy, or perhaps she will continue her role fronting propaganda campaigns for the British political class.

Journalism as a soft power tool and platform for British foreign policy

Regarding Hunt’s concerns over the human rights of journalists, it is important to measure this against his recent achievements in human rights…

Hunt recently sanctioned the impunity with which Israeli forces have murdered Palestinians in Gaza since the start of the Right of Return… by abstaining from the UN resolution designed to hold Israel accountable.

He also recently published an article in Politico in which he describes it his moral duty to continue supporting and selling arms to Saudi Arabia to continue its barbaric war on Yemen that has not only resulted in the deaths of thousands through missile strikes, but has led to starvation due to a deliberate blockade – putting countless at risk the lives of millions of Yemenis.

The question then remains: what is Hunt’s real motive behind promoting ‘press freedom’?  Hunt’s focus on British soft power post-Brexit suggests this forms a key component of British foreign policy strategy.  The UK’s funding of media overseas has shown to be strategic: UK money is going into media outlets that directly oppose governments which Britain views as targets for regime change.  This has been seen in countries such as Syria and Venezuela.  Those journalists protecting British government narratives regarding Ukraine and Russia are also likely to be protected by the Foreign Office.  Those who challenge British government narratives will not be supported by the Foreign Office, and will almost certainly be accused of promoting ‘pro-Kremlin propaganda’, or perhaps even find themselves in Ukrainian prisons.

Indeed, ‘press freedom’ for Jeremy Hunt is as conditional as it is tactical, and certainly not based on principle.  The plight of Julian Assange is evidence of that.

The Integrity Initiative has exposed the British government’s agenda for journalists.  This must be kept at the forefront of the conversation on the Fourth Estate when considering any media campaign run by the Foreign Office, where journalists seem to viewed as tools to be co-opted as part of  an intelligence-led operation using the narrative that the UK is a target of Russian ‘hybrid warfare’.  The co-opting of journalists through this narrative works in direct opposition to the notion and principle of ‘freedom of the press’. Instead, what you get is a government-media complex.

Still, it’s hard to imagine that any contemporary conversation about press freedom and freedom to publish, or the rights of whistleblower, would completely airbrush-out the joint case of Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning and WikiLeaks – one which could potentially preserve or redefine press freedom in the western world. Yet, this is exactly what we are witnessing now.

It is possible that the Foreign Office, also anticipating Assange’s expulsion, may have chosen this as the right time for Amal Clooney’s glamorous outing?  Whether this is the case or not, her appearance is just another act in a grand deception which is taking place regarding the function of the ‘free press’ in Britain.

Author Nina Cross is an independent writer and researcher, and contributor to 21WIRE. To see more of her work, visit her Nina’s archive.

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