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.