Vice's censorship concerns: Blocking stories that could upset MBS
A new report by The Guardian unmasks that Vice has recently entered into a profitable agreement with the Saudi government-affiliated MBC Group.
Vice, a major media conglomerate, is facing allegations of suppressing news stories that could provoke the ire of the Saudi government, The Guardian reported.
This situation has raised concerns among the conglomerate's journalists who fear that their ability to report independently on human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia is being compromised. Such worries have emerged following Vice's partnership with the MBC Group, a media entity controlled by the Saudi government, to establish a collaborative venture in Saudi Arabia, as per The Guardian.
It's worth noting that a considerable portion of Vice's job openings is now based in Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia.
The report focused on multiple reported cases where Vice's critical news pieces about Saudi Arabia were either delayed or scrapped.
Reportedly, this occurred due to interventions by high-level Vice executives who cited the safety of their colleagues based in Saudi Arabia as a top priority. Consequently, internal concerns have arisen within the company, hinting that the content may be influenced by Saudi financial interests.
In further detail, a Vice documentary focusing on Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was removed from the internet, citing concerns about the security of employees in Saudi Arabia. Despite Vice's earlier suspension of operations in Saudi Arabia after the tragic murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the company is now returning to the country through a collaborative endeavor.
The influence of Vice's partnership with a Saudi-backed publisher has even extended to its London office. Here, a picture from the Sarah Everard memorial protest that was hung on the wall for so long was taken down and replaced by a map of Saudi Arabia, a move attributed to employees connected to the Saudi joint venture, as per the report.]
Vice's pivot toward generating lifestyle-oriented content and its acceptance of Saudi funding has led to concerns about the potential erosion of its editorial independence. While Vice alleged that the editorial freedom of its news staff in Western nations will be preserved, reports indicate that corporate executives may have intervened to modify editorial decisions related to Saudi Arabia coverage.
The core objective of Vice's joint initiative is allegedly to produce digital content in Arabic centered around modern Arab youth culture, with an emphasis on lifestyle topics rather than news reporting. Allegedly, the former head of Vice's news division conveyed to employees that they were free to depart if they felt uncomfortable about Vice's association with Saudi Arabia. He stressed the company's commitment to fostering transformation in the region.
Saudi Arabia's significant financial influence has spurred a variety of business dealings and investments, including those in sports and media. While Saudi Arabia strives to rebrand itself as a hospitable tourist destination and diversify its economic portfolio beyond oil, concerns persist about its human rights record. The country's substantial economic clout empowers it to exert influence across diverse sectors, most notably the realm of media.