Vice Media sneakily organized $20m Saudi festival
In a blow to worldwide humanitarian calls to halt all work in blood-spattered Saudi Arabia, American-Canadian Youth media company planned March 2020 event.
Saudi Arabia’s lavish Azimuth music festival, all subsidized by its government, was secretly organized by American-Canadian youth media company Vice.
Insiders at Vice informed The Guardian that the corporation was once again aggressively pursuing business prospects in Saudi Arabia, just three years after officially announcing that it was stopping all activity in the country owing to the aftermath of the state-ordered murder of journalist and dissident Jamal Khashoggi.
The ugly truth is out: Vice is still doing business in Saudi Arabia despite the latter’s horrendous slate of human rights abuses, from torture reports to jailing journalists, to executing dissidents.
“Vice employees have for years raised concerns over the company’s involvement with Saudi Arabia – and we’ve been fobbed off with empty statements and pathetic excuses,” said one Vice employee told The Guardian.
The Azimuth music festival, which took place during the onset of the Covid epidemic and attracted little attention in the western media, is thought to have been extremely profitable for Vice. The overall budget, according to business employees, was $20 million (£15 million).
Vice's name was kept out of the event as much as possible. Contractors on the music festival, which was organized by Vice's creative marketing agency Virtue, had to sign non-disclosure agreements, and Vice's name was not used in any public marketing materials.
As Saudi Arabia is desperately attempting to whitewash its human rights abuses with entertainment and Vice is dealing with allegations of sexual harassment, the two seem to be a good match.
The blood-stained money offered by Saudi Arabia has pleased Vice's greed, and the company inaugurated last year an office in Riyadh.
The company also has a pact to develop promotional films for the kingdom with the Saudi Research and Marketing Group, a company with deep ties to the Saudi government that also has a collaboration with the Independent and Evening Standard.
“It is astounding that – despite ongoing opposition from staff – Vice is still happy to take money from a country that was literally responsible for the state-sanctioned murder of a journalist,” one employee told The Guardian.
He also stressed that Vice executives were acutely aware of the potential reputational damage that could be caused if its western audience became aware of the extent to which it was working with Saudi Arabia.
Recently, Saudi Arabia has been using the star-studded faces of international celebrities to whitewash its slate - most notably its horrendous record war crimes in Yemen - in addition to hosting sports and cultural events, such as the most recent Formula One event that included a Justin Bieber performance, among many others.