Bahrain calls in Washington PR firm to tackle backlash

Gulf state hires Qorvis Communications at $40,000 a month after flurry of negative press
Bahrain has repeatedly contested the portrayal of recent anti-government protests by foreign media
By Claire Ferris-Lay
Tue 09 Aug 2011 12:59 PM

The
government of Bahrain has hired a Washington PR firm at a cost of $40,000 a
month as it moves to tackle a flurry of negative foreign press in the wake of
widespread political unrest.

The
appointment of Qorvis Communications, which lists the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
and Amazon.com among its clients, comes after sustained media coverage of a
crackdown on anti-government protesters in the Gulf state that killed at least
seven and saw over 1,000 detained.

Qorvis
has already issued its first statement to the press on behalf of Bahrain’s
Ministry of Health, condemning a report from charity Medecins Sans Frontieres that
claimed its Bahrain office had been raided and one employee arrested.

Qorvis
Communications will be paid $40,000 per month in addition to expenses for
travel, production and accommodation, a contract signed by managing partner,
Michael Petruzzello and Bahrain’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sheikh Khalid
Bin Ahmed Bin Mohamed Al Khalifa.

Bahrain has repeatedly contested
the portrayal of the kingdom's anti-government protests by foreign media, blaming the unrest on outside forces seeking to destabilise the country.

The Gulf
state this week accused Doha-based Al Jazeera of “slander and lies” after it
aired a documentary purporting to show human rights abuses by government forces
against activists.

In March,
Bahrain's rulers imposed martial law and called in troops from fellow
Sunni-ruled Gulf neighbours to quell weeks of unrest led by mostly Shi'ite
protesters.

Tens of
thousands marched outside Bahrain's capital Manama in July in protest of a
National Dialogue they said had failed to bring real democratic reform in the
Gulf island kingdom.

Bahrain's
rulers launched the dialogue in July, aiming to quell international criticism
of its crushing of mass pro-democracy protests.

King
Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa has since approved parliamentary reforms submitted by
the National Dialogue that grant more powers of scrutiny to an elected lower
house but preserved the dominance of an upper house appointed by the royal
elite.

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