Amal Clooney has accused Donald Trump of vilifying the media and making journalists all over the world more vulnerable to abuse.
The human rights lawyer championed the benefits of a free press as she took aim at the US president, who frequently attacks reporters for spreading what he describes as “fake news”.
In a speech to the Global Conference for Media Freedom in London, Mrs Clooney said: “When it comes to the right to a free press we are seeing, according to Freedom House, the 13th consecutive year of decline across the globe.
“This decline in media freedom doesn’t only mean that journalists have fewer rights – it means we all have.
“Because as James Madison – one of America’s founding fathers – warned us more than 200 years ago – the right to a free press is the only effectual guardian of every other right.
“Yet today, journalists are under attack like never before. They are dying not only while covering wars but because they are exposing crimes committed in war, exposing abuses of power committed in peacetime.”
She went on to say: “Recent reports suggest that today only one in 10 people in the world lives in a country with a free press.
“And today, the country of James Madison has a leader who vilifies the media – making honest journalists all over the world more vulnerable to abuse.”
She also took aim at the response of world leaders to the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.
Mrs Clooney said: “Last year when Jamal Khashoggi, Washington Post columnist, was tortured to death and dismembered by Saudi Arabian officials in Istanbul, world leaders responded with little more than a collective shrug.”
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who co-hosted the event with Canadian foreign minister Chrystia Freeland, said he would not use the language of Mr Trump.
He told the press conference: “I wouldn’t use the language President Trump used and I wouldn’t agree with it.
“And I think we have to remember whatever the political battles we face in countries where we are used to press freedom and it’s part of our daily lives and we’ve never known anything else, we have to remember that what we say can have an impact in other countries where they can’t take press freedom for granted.”
In his speech, Mr Hunt said: “Powerful people value their reputations, so the sunlight of transparency is the greatest deterrent to wrongdoing.
“I’m a politician, and like many members of my profession I don’t always enjoy reading what the media says about me.
“Indeed a politician who stands up for journalists might occasionally feel like a turkey voting for Christmas.”
But he added: “For those of us who are occasionally on the receiving end of the criticism we should also reflect on the wisdom of Nelson Mandela when he said that the media are a mirror through which we see ourselves and others perceive us – warts, blemishes and all.”
Foreign ministers, NGOs, academics and journalists from more than 100 countries attended the event but reporters from Russian news outlets RT and Sputnik were banned.
Despite the conference championing media freedom, only a handful of pre-selected journalists were able to ask questions following the speeches.
Mr Hunt also announced a new Global Media Defence Fund to “help fund legal advice for journalists and safety training for those venturing into conflict zones”, with Britain providing £3 million over the next five years.