The Saudis Are Listening

I stumbled across something on the interweb recently which gave me a suprise. It happened while I was doing one of those things which, like masturbation, is widely done but seldom admitted: Googling my own name.

The controversy over BAE Systems and their Al-Yamamah contracts, with their well-documented allegations of corruption, is something I’ve written about a few times. In March, I reported for Tribune about a freedom of information case related to attempts by campaigners to force the Serious Fraud Office to repoen their corruption enquiry. Basically, the campaigners had made FOI requests to the government and had been refused; they didn’t expect to find direct evidence of bribery, but wanted the documents to build a better picture of BAE’s relationship with the Saudi and British governments (although the British weren’t a party to the contracts, they were heavily involved at various stages in promoting the deals over several decades). You can read my article here. I am in fact the only person to have reported the story (of which more later).

Anyway, I was surprised in the course of my Google-powered self-abuse to come across this slim brochure published by the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Right there on page five was my article, with its rather un-Saudi-friendly headline, “UK ignores Saudi human rights abuses, says former top official”, intact. The brochure announces itself as the Weekly Report of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Information and Studies Centre. My story appeared alongside others from Jane’s Defence Review, Canada’s National Post and Arab News.

A quick look around the MOFA website reveals what is going on – because they helpfully explain it for you.: “The ministry of foreign affairs in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia established a center that is dedicated to finding the effective mechanism to present all kinds of information in the mean time to decision makers.” This information includes impressive-sounding databases of events, important global personalities and information about the countries of the world.

They also produce publications: “The center publishes daily an English Language report that contains news about the Kingdom foreign media published in English language be they from the Arab world or otherwise. The news items are published in a balanced manner whether they are economic or political. The report is published in a modern style and contains whatever written about the Kingdom be they negative or positive in nature… Senior officials in the Ministry receive a copy of this report which is published daily and consists of 4 colored pages that are increased sometimes to 8 pages based on  the volume of news.”

So there you have it. The Saudi royal family’s officials are monitoring the media, and even – it seems – our humble website. Maybe I can influence global opinion after all!

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2 Responses to “The Saudis Are Listening”

  1. Oli Says:

    Or perhaps they’ve just been reading your stuff in order to populate their database of undesirables? If I were you I’d watch it next time I went on a Club 18-30 holiday to Jeddah.

  2. Rebtewly Says:

    Brilliant!

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