Certain Arab rulers of despotic nations are masters of propaganda – spending time on style over substance as working with media and PR agencies allows them the strength (and cover) to remain in power. These brutal dictators kill, oppress and ignore civil rights – but they spend millions charming (and spinning) the media while utilizing many of the world’s leading PR firms to assist them in their despotic ways. The media and public relations communities should examine their roles as accomplices to this wanton violence.
This fall, there are two specific nations who are utilizing significant public relations operations to benefit their dictatorships. At www.bahrainwatch.org one learns that the government of Bahrain has spent $32 million on US and UK PR agencies since the start of protests in Bahrain in February 2011. During that time period, at least 60 people have been killed by government security forces, and the government is regularly described as one of the world’s most brutal regimes.
Owning 5WPR, a leading PR firm, I know first-hand that firms like Bell Pottinger, Hill & Knowlton & Qorvis, who are working for Bahrain, have significant impact upon media coverage and are effective. A good crisis PR agency can shape what media reports, and how. There’s a reason they get the big bucks. This week, CNN is under criticism for refusing to air a documentary, “iRevolution: Online Warriors of the Arab Spring,” which it had commissioned and produced that featured footage of government forces shooting unarmed protesters.
Meanwhile, largely unreported, police brutality continues, as police fired tear gas and stun grenades at dozens of anti-government protesters who defied a ban on unauthorized demonstrations. $32 million spent in the last 18 months on public relations is a huge amount, sure to influence media coverage, and hence world opinion.
Syria is another nation which has spent heavily while killing its citizens – and the story isn’t headline news as it should be daily. As has been previously reported, NY PR firm Brown Lloyd James has worked with Syria extensively to help Assad get away with murder (as they did with Libyan dictator Moammar Qaddafi.)
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