NEW YORK: Edelman’s PR assignment on behalf of the Kingdom of Bahrain has been suspended, following the violent security crackdown in the Middle Eastern nation.
The Holmes Report understands that the account – which covers US work for Bahrain’s Economic Development Board – was effectively stopped on Friday, after a week in which Bahrain’s turmoil escalated significantly.
Edelman’s New York office has been working for Bahrain’s EDB since January of this year, overseeing the US component of a global programme to attract foreign direct investment to the tiny nation.
The US government has ramped up its rhetoric in recent days, calling for the Bahrain government to find a peaceful solution to the turmoil, and address the demands of protesters. Earlier this week, Saudi troops arrived to help quell the uprising; at least 13 protesters have been killed by security forces since the largely peaceful rebellion began on 14 February.
The global EDB account is led from Bahrain by UK PR firm Bell Pottinger, which has faced increasing criticism over the role it is playing on behalf of the country’s beleaguered government. The agency appears to have expanded its role since first being appointed to promote investment in the country; last month, it emerged that Bell Pottinger has helped set up a media centre to assist journalists covering protests within the country.
The assignment was previously handled by Weber Shandwick. After losing the global mandate to Bell Pottinger in early 2009, Weber Shandwick retained US duties. These have since been assumed by Edelman.
“The work was not stopped by the US Government, but at the instruction of Bell Pottinger,” said Edelman corporate and public affairs MD Justin Blake, quashing earlier suggestions that US Government pressure had forced the suspension.
According to US Department of Justice filings, another firm that handles PR for Bahrain is Washington DC lobbying outfit Qorvis, which is subcontracted by Bell Pottinger on behalf of the Gulf kingdom’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Qorvis did not respond to request for comment as this story went live.
“A solution to Bahrain’s problems will not be found through security measures,” said a US State Department statement released on Friday.
“We reiterate our call for a peaceful and broadly inclusive political dialogue aimed at bringing about a purely ‘made-in-Bahrain’ solution and implementation of the kind of meaningful and credible reforms that will meet the aspirations of all Bahraini people.”
Last month, the Holmes Report analysed Bell Pottinger’s work on behalf of Bahrain.
Meanwhile, it has emerged that the Monitor Group – the US consultancy that was paid at least $3 million by Libya’s government between 2006 and 2008 – did not report this work to the US DoJ under the Foreign Agent Registration (FARA) Act. FARA filings are required for any foreign government activity that attempts to influence the US government.
Monitor Group provided economic consulting and arranged visits of numerous high-profile visitors to Libya, as part of a programme to rehabilitate the country’s international reputation. The firm is closely linked to Harvard University, and counts professor Michael Porter as one of its founders.
FARA filings reveal several other companies that have worked for Libya in recent years: Fahmy Hudome International, Mena Cultural and Communication Center, Blank Rome, Livingston Group, and White & Case.
In the UK, meanwhile, pressure group The Really PR Agency has targeted both Bell Pottinger and Brown Lloyd James, a UK firm that handled work for Libya in 2009.