Amal Clooney says she is “honoured” to be appointed a special envoy on media freedom.
The international human rights lawyer, who has shot to fame as the wife of George Clooney, has been made special envoy by Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt.
Mr Hunt said: “Violence against journalists has reached alarming levels globally and we cannot turn a blind eye.
“The media has a crucial role to play in holding the powerful to account. There is no escaping the fact that draconian and outdated laws around the world are being used to restrict the ability of the media to report the truth.
“Amal Clooney’s leading work on human rights means she is ideally placed to ensure this campaign has real impact for journalists and the free societies who depend on their work.”
The international human rights lawyer said she was “honoured” to have been given the role.
She will also chair a panel of legal experts, to find ways to prevent and reverse media abuses.
“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,” she said.
“I welcome the UK Government’s focus on this issue at a time when journalists are being killed and imprisoned at record levels all over the world, and I look forward to working on new legal initiatives that can help to ensure a more effective international response.”
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office said that 2018 was the deadliest year for journalists, with 99 killed, 348 detained and 60 taken hostage by non-state groups.
The announcement comes ahead of an international conference on media freedom to be held in the UK in July.
Amnesty International UK said that “the UK needs to address concerns here at home if it is to have credibility as an international champion for media freedom”.
It highlighted the case of two Belfast reporters arrested in connection with a documentary exposing police collusion.
Kate Allen, director of Amnesty International UK, said: “We welcome the news of Amal Clooney’s appointment, and hope it will help ensure the UK Government makes a difference for the brave journalists exposing human rights violations around the world.
“Globally, journalists and media outlets are under increasing attack for their vital work. Concerted international effort is needed to ensure the safety of media workers, and we need to see those who harass or attack them brought to justice.
“However, the UK needs to address concerns here at home if it is to have credibility as an international champion for media freedom.
“The sinister arrest of journalists Trevor Birney and Barry McCaffrey – facing the prospect of serious charges simply for their vital work in uncovering police collusion in the Loughinisland massacre in Northern Ireland – leaves us in no doubt that press freedom in the UK is at grave risk.”