The United Kingdom and Canada are together giving more than $4 million to a new global media defense fund.
The fund, which will be administered by UNESCO, will be used to support, train and provide legal help for journalists around the world.
The UK is giving $3.75 million over the next five years while Canada has committed just over $765,050.
The fund was announced on Wednesday in London by the UK’s Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt at the first Global Media Freedom Conference, which is hosted by the UK and Canada.
Hunt also announced that there would be funds to promote press freedom around the world, and said there would soon be a contact group of “like minded” countries that will lobby in unison when the media comes under attack. The group, he said, will be a sort of “rapid response” team to help foreign ministers and ambassadors “react as one when abuses take place.”
“The strongest safe guard against the dark side of power is accountability and scrutiny,” Hunt said. “The sunlight of transparency is the greatest deterrent for wrong doing.”
Human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, who was appointed a special envoy for media freedom by Hunt, will also convene a panel of legal experts who will advise governments on how their laws or actions affect media freedom.
The United States, which was not a co-sponsor of the conference, was barely mentioned except to lament how President Donald Trump often disparages the press.
Clooney did not utter Trump’s name, but said “The country of James Madison has a leader today who vilifies the media, making honest journalists all over the world more vulnerable to abuse.”
Hunt, who is running against former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson to be the UK’s next prime minister, declined to outright condemn Trump, saying instead he “wouldn’t use the language President Trump used and I wouldn’t agree with it.”
“We have to remember that what we say can have an impact in other countries where we can’t take press freedom for granted,” Hunt said.
Hunt also defended the publication of the private diplomatic cables highly critical of Trump, sent by the UK ambassador to the US, Kim Darroch. Darroch resigned on Tuesday after Trump bashed him and said the US would no longer engage with the ambassador. Hunt had said he would keep Darroch on if he were elected to lead the UK.
“I deplore those leaks,” Hunt said, adding that as Foreign Secretary he relies on the honest personal assessments of the UK’s ambassadors. But, he said “I defend to the hilt the right of the press to publish them if they receive them.”