Whitewashing Saudi Arabia's image by US firm worth $10mln: Guardian
Saudi Arabia makes a $10 million payment of blood money to a US public relations company to help Saudi Arabia improve its image.
Saudi Arabia has been using the star-studded faces of international celebrities to whitewash its slate, in addition to hosting sports and cultural events, such as the Formula One event that 'enjoyed' a Justin Bieber performance, among many others.
Here's an update: Despite selling himself as a strong advocate opponent of doing business with autocratic regimes, Richard Edelman, CEO of the $1 billion company Edelman, negotiated agreements with the monarchy during the previous four years to improve its reputation, The Guardian reported.
The services that Edelman had rendered to Saudi Arabia were contrasted with his public persona as a global fighter against autocrats, as per the report. When the British newspaper questioned Edelman about his company's alleged hypocrisy, he chose not to respond.
In a blog post from June regarding the most important geopolitical issue of our day, Edelman claimed that he was "more convinced than ever" that the worldwide divide between democracy and autocracy is the primary problem and that "autocracy is making progress against democracy" globally.
The Guardian, however, asserted that due to Edelman's lucrative commercial connections to Saudi Arabia and its Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), he is not following his own recommendations. The majority of Edelman's work for the Saudi government has been devoted to restoring its reputation in the US.
Not an isolated incident
Human Rights Watch, within this context, contended that “Saudi Arabia has a history of using celebrities and major international events to deflect scrutiny from its pervasive abuses.”
It is forecasted that Edelman will get payments totaling more than $5.6 million for the PR firm's activities targeting American viewers. Regular press releases praising initiatives like "mainstreaming women in business" and "stepping up efforts to empower women and youth" were sent out as part of this. More than $3 million in revenue from NEOM-related initiatives is anticipated for Edelman.
The Guardian stated that Edelman inked a $787,500 contract to assist the Saudi Ministry of Culture with "PR and communications services" on May 31, 2022, only days before he wrote his blog post warning of the widening gap between democracy and dictatorship.
The report also unmasked the names of a number of other US companies working in public relations to improve Saudi Arabia's image, including McKinsey & Company, Boston Consulting Group, Hogan Lovells, and Qorvis Communications.
The big picture
A report by Human Rights Watch has recently revealed that Saudi Arabia is funneling billions of dollars into entertainment and events aimed at whitewashing its horrendous slate of human rights abuses, from torture reports to murdering journalists and executing dissidents.
This is an intricate plan: With Vision 2030 that MBS set for Saudi Arabia, in 2016, a General Entertainment Authority was created, and billions of dollars were used to invest in the local entertainment industry. Over 64 billion dollars were planned to be invested in music, entertainment, sports, art, film, and more, complementing sports, tourism, and culture ministries.
Saudi Arabia has been trying to whitewash its human rights abuses through entertainment and festivals. The kingdom seems to be using up a new strategy to further turn a blind eye away from its abuses, by hiring media experts to stretch its influence in the world further.