Wash, DC PR Firm Accused Of Whitewashing Work For Saudis

Serious human rights abuses.

The Independent, a major UK newspaper, ran a front-page exclusive this week revealing that a major Washington, D.C.-based public relations firm stood “accused of helping Saudi Arabia 'whitewash' its human rights record following the kingdom’s largest mass execution for more than 30 years.”

The newspaper reported that Qorvis MSLGroup distributed an article entitled, “The Saudis Are Fighting Terrorism, Don’t Believe Otherwise” in which, according to The Independent:

...the kingdom’s foreign minister Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir implicitly attempted to justify the execution of 47 people. A number of political protesters and at least four juveniles are believed to have been among those killed in January. Human rights groups are increasingly worried that three more juveniles – including Ali al-Nimr, who was sentenced to death aged 17 for taking part in a pro-democracy protest – are due to be executed imminently.

On its website, the company stated that its work for the kingdom included “media relations, advertising, government relations, grass-roots action and online communications.”

The newspaper reported that, following inquiries, references to representing Qorvis disappeared from the website of the PR firm. A human rights organization accused Qorvis of helping the Saudis “whitewash serious human rights abuses.”

Everything-PR, a leading Public Relations news site, had previously reported that a study was conducted which revealed that Qorvis Communications/MSL Group made at least $20 million representing major human rights violators.

As Wikipedia notes, “Saudi Arabia hired Qorvis to improve its image in the wake of the September 11 attacks, receiving $14.7 million between March and September 2002. Qorvis engaged in a PR frenzy that publicized the "9/11 Commission finding that there was 'no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually funded Al Qaeda, while omitting the report's conclusion that 'Saudi Arabia has been a problematic ally in combating Islamic extremism.'"