Media and PR companies in the U.K. have worked for Saudi Arabia as part of a “soft power” campaign to help the country’s image in recent years, according to The Guardian. Newspapers, including The Guardian, have run advertisements “promoting” Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman’s reform agenda. The London office of Vice was reportedly approached by Saudi publishing group SRMG to produce videos promoting the country, including one about the “Saudi Arabian camel festival” that racked up millions of YouTube views. The same firm reportedly signed a deal with the Independent newspaper to “launch new foreign language websites under the Independent brand across the Middle East.” In addition, SRMG reportedly donates to the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change to “support the former British prime minister’s work on the Saudi modernization program.”
PR agency Freud’s also reportedly worked for Saudi Arabia in 2016, but told The Guardian it is no longer affiliated with the country. Vice told the newspaper it maintained “full editorial control” during the video’s production process, and said its deal with the country is “now under review.” Individuals have reportedly expressed to the Independent concerns over “potential editorial interference” by SRMG. The Tony Blair Institute declined to comment.