Amal Clooney accuses Trump of 'giving green light' to autocratic regimes

Bethany Papworth
Mrs Clooney warned: 'The US president has given such regimes a green light and labelled the press in this country the enemy of the people' - GC Images

Amal Clooney has claimed Donald Trump gives the "green light" to autocratic regimes during a speech in which she warned against the US president's attacks on the press.

Speaking at the United Nations Correspondents Association Awards in New York, the human rights barrister criticised the president for labeling American journalists "enemy of the people" as she drew a line between Mr Trump's rhetoric and the rise of populism around the world.

Speaking of a crackdown on dissent, she said: "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 the Philippines, to 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."

She referred to the "brutal torture and death" two month ago of a Washington Post journalist, Jamal Khashoggi. 

Amal Clooney and George Clooney leave the dinner after he gives her speech Credit:  James Devaney

"In many of the cases that I have worked on too, I have seen journalists and opposition figures ruthlessly targeted so that they can no longer criticise leaders," she continued.

According to Turkish security sources, Mr Khashoggi was tortured, murdered and dismembered in the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul. Although Saudi Arabia has admitted to killing Mr Khashoggi in a pre-calculated attack, but Ryadh have denied Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman's involvement.

The Trump administration sanctioned 17 Saudi nationals over the killing of Mr Khashoggi. Mr Trump himself has been cautious in directly criticising Saudi Arabia and has steered clear of apportioning blame to the Crown Prince, a key ally in the Middle East and major customer for US arms.

In her speech, Mrs Clooney also spoke up for two Reuters journalists, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who were jailed for seven years in Myanmar after covering the murders of the Rohingya religious minority.

Mrs Clooney concluded: "And you, the press, are under attack like never before. You are being jailed at a higher rate than ever. You are dying while covering wars, not just because you walk unarmed on the most dangerous places on earth but because you are being targeted for exposing crimes committed, for speaking the truth that perpetrators find the most difficult to hear."