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Diamonds in spotlight at Academy Awards -

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Diamonds in spotlight at Academy Awards

Broadcast: 23/02/2007

Reporter: John Stewart

The Academy Awards kick off on Monday night and the hype surrounding one nominated film has
inspired diamond companies to cash in.


VIRGINIA TRIOLI: On Monday, millions of viewers around the world will tune in to the Academy
Awards. It's a chance for celebrities to promote themselves and of course, their favourite fashion
designer, but this year the diamond industry is also playing a role. The film Blood Diamond has
created so much bad publicity for the industry that celebrities have been enlisted to improve the
image of the diamond trade. John Stewart and Brett Evans prepared this report.

JOHN STEWART: Diamonds are a girl's best friend, just ask Jennifer Lopez. Dressed to impress at
this year's Golden Globe Awards, the superstar was flaunting a stunning array of rocks but they
weren't all hers. The diamond industry reportedly loaned J Lo and other stars like Beyonce Knowles,
a sparkly cocktail ring for the big night. In return, the diamond industry donates $10,000 to an
African charity chosen by the Hollywood star.

FREDDY HAGER, LONDON DIAMOND BOURSE PRESIDENT: I think it's a wonderful, wonderful thing. I think
the sentiments behind it is great and I think spurring people on to do charitable work and to give
charity and to get involved in charitable work is fantastic.

JOHN STEWART: It is all part of a campaign by the diamond industry to counter negative publicity
created by one of this year's most talked about movies.

Blood Diamond is a film about the fall of Freetown in Sierra Leone in 1999. Thousands of young boys
were recruited to fight in a war largely funded by the diamond trade. Not surprisingly, the movie
is creating a public relations nightmare for the diamond industry.

A blood or conflict diamond is a diamond mined and traded illegally or used to fund wars. According
to human rights groups, conflict diamonds are still being slipped into the international diamond
market. Amnesty International points to parts of Africa, like the Ivory Coast.

CAROLINE FORD, AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL: In October 2006 they had a study that found that $23 million
worth of diamonds were being smuggled out of North Cote d'Ivoire, which are conflict diamonds,
which were being smuggled into Ghana to then be sold on the open market as conflict free. What
we're saying is that $23 million is a lot of money that buys a lot of Kalashnikovs and a lot more
Kalashnikovs than actually there is money to support the health sector in the Cote d'Ivoire, for

JOHN STEWART: Blood Diamond the film is set in the late 1990s and the diamond industry has since
made big changes. Now diamonds have to be certified as coming from places which are conflict-free
and carefully traced as they move around the world.

FREDDY HAGER: Whenever a parcel of rough diamonds crosses borders from one legal entity, from one
country to another, they have to be sealed in a tamper proof package, the origin has to be clearly
stated and the things are stamped in and out, the idea being that any diamonds that have escaped
the system or any diamonds that have been come by in an illegal and dubious manner will not be able
to enter the system.

JOHN STEWART: Despite the big crackdown on illegal diamonds, the industry admits not all countries
are interested in cleaning up their act.

FREDDY HAGER: It is as successful as the governments of those countries will allow. I say that
because some governments - this sounds crass - some governments can't be bothered. Some
governments, you know, feel they have enough on their plate.

JOHN STEWART: Journalist Sorious Samura acted as an adviser to the film. He was the only television
journalist left in Sierra Leone's capital when it fell to the warlords and risked his life to shoot
these extraordinary pictures.

SORIOUS SAMURA, JOURNALIST: I think for most Sierra Leonians and myself, when we see a diamond we
see blood, we see dead bodies, we see boarding houses. You know, it's all the negative things that
the diamonds have brought to us or for us. They haven't worked for us at all.

JOHN STEWART: Negative publicity from the film doesn't seem to be hurting international diamond
sales. Despite Leonardo DiCaprio's latest blockbuster, there will still be plenty of bling bling on
this year's red carpet.