street of shame

Desert Rats
Saudi Arabia, Issue 1482

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has enjoyed much positive coverage from British media
“HAS Mohammed bin Salman gone too far?” the Times asked on 9 October. Two weeks later it gave the answer: “Trump’s high-stakes gamble on the erratic Mohammed bin Salman backfires.”

The Times forgot to add that it too had bet on MBS. “The Saudi crown prince offers a compelling vision of change for his country,” it editorialised when he visited London in March. “Britain should work closely with him.” Ministers shouldn’t heed protests about the Saudi bombardment of Yemen: “It is right that Britain remains a significant supplier of defence equipment.”

The bet paid off at once: the very next day the Times online had a prominent banner ad above its homepage title, with a smiling photo of the crown prince announcing that “Times have changed” and the hashtag “#ANewSaudiArabia”. There were also half-page ads in the print edition, hailing MBS’s “economic diversification” and “social transformation”.

Spruce up the kingdom’s reputation
Not that the Times was alone. “Saudi Arabia pays UK firms millions to boost image,” the Guardian reported on 20 October, naming British PR and ad agencies who had taken money to spruce up the kingdom’s reputation. Seizing the opportunity to kick its rivals, the Grauniad also cited the Independent’s partnership with a Saudi publisher, films made by Vice to promote Saudi Arabia, and a possible approach to the Telegraph by Saudi investors. But what of the Guardian? “In March this year,” it admitted, “a number of British newspapers, including the Guardian, ran adverts promoting Bin Salman’s reform agenda.”

Over at the Daily Mail, an editorial on 20 October denounced the murder of Jamal Khashoggi as “a crime so repulsive that it cannot pass unavenged”. Although thousands of British jobs and “contracts worth billions of pounds” depend on our trade with Saudi Arabia, nevertheless the crown prince “must be taught that paying lip-service to reform is not enough”.

Lip-service to reform
As noted in the last Eye, beneficiaries of those lucrative contracts include the Daily Mail and General Trust’s outfit DMG Events, which is proudly “open for business in Saudi Arabia” and paying lip-service to reform: “an incredibly ambitious programme of economic diversification and liberalisation”, its homepage raves. The company’s “Index Saudi” – billed as “DMG Events’ leading portfolio of interiors, design and construction events in the GCC region” – was due to start on 30 October, just 10 days after the Mail’s tirade.

That isn’t Lord Rothermere’s only Saudi money-spinner. DMGT’s Euromoney hosts a lavish annual conference in Riyadh featuring top Saudi ministers and business chiefs. This year’s event, held in May, was devoted to “the development of the Kingdom’s journey towards the goals of Vision 2030”. Its conclusion? “Many positive milestones have been reached and the energy and commitment towards the 2030 goals remains undiminished.”

Two weeks ago the Mail ran a furious front-page blast against British politicians who ride on the “Saudi gravy train”. Perhaps Lord Rothermere will now climb off the train as well. Or then again perhaps not.

To read all these stories in full, please buy issue 1482 of Private Eye - you can subscribe here and have the magazine delivered to your home every fortnight.

Next issue on sale: 11th December 2018

More top stories in the latest issue:

Why a long-standing grudge meant Telegraph hacks were granted rare permission to go after a business bigwig.

As the Daily Mail blasts the camo-wearing goat killer its editor in chief offers deer hunting on his private estate.

Very little coverage of Alan Rusbridger’s new book, which exposes bad behaviour by the elders of Fleet Street.

The Evening Standard gives a prime spot to Visa Europe CEO Charlotte Hogg, a friend of editor George Osborne.

While criticising Sky News Arabia for cravenly following the Saudi government line on the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, the Telegraph publishes yet more Chinese government propaganda.

The Mail’s political correctness gone ginger-nuts story was 35 years late.

Private Eye Issue 1482
In This Issue
Parliamentary privilege not used – MPs bravely don’t name themselves… Britain to continue selling brimstone to hell… Trump blames media for stoking violence… Halloween killer fury over inappropriate language… Billy Goat Gruff shot by Wicked Witch… World’s oldest metaphor found at bottom of sea… Alan Yentob meets Tracey Emin, as told to Craig Brown

Rags and Gags
How the press covered the Philip Green affair

Crock and Roll
Publishing invests in the Heritage Rock market

Egypt Watch
The UK and EU quiet about mass death sentences

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11th December 2018
Private Eye Issue 1481