Corporate Europe Observatory

Exposing the power of corporate lobbying in the EU

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European PR firms whitewashing brutal regimes - report

Credit: Banksy
Credit: Banksy

New research exposes companies behind Europe's multi-million Euro image-laundering business.

A report released today by research and campaign group Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) sheds light on how dictators and repressive regimes are paying European PR firms and lobbyists to push their agenda and mask their dire human rights records.

Spin doctors to the autocrats: how European PR firms whitewash repressive regimes” lifts the lid on the murky world of spin carried out on behalf of some of the world's most brutal regimes. CEO is calling on EU institutions to urgently establish a mandatory lobbying register as a step towards bringing some much needed transparency to the sector. Transparency rules should include a specific clarification that lobbying for non-EU governments and states is required to be reported. 

Case studies include:

  • the story of the spin doctors (Levick) whitewashing Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan’s image, and his catastrophic handling of Boko Haram ahead of next month's elections;

  • a look at various PR companies (eg Gplus) spinning Russia (and state gas company Gazprom’s) position on the Ukraine conflict in Brussels;

  • a new Central Asian think tank in Brussels which is in essence a front group paid for by the dictatorship of Kazakhstan;

  • the lavishly funded PR firms, front groups (The European Azerbaijan Society) and their European Parliament friends working for the increasingly repressive dictatorship of Azerbaijan;

  • the Brussels firm modelling themselves on Washington lobbyists, defending the interests  - and assets - of the corrupt former Ukraine regime; 

  • the PR firm BGR Gabara based in London and Brussels representing the Government of Bangladesh to manage its international image as it sentences to death several leading members of Islamic opposition parties in a flawed war crime tribunal process;

  • accused by International Criminal Court of crimes against humanity, Presidential candidate for Kenya Uhuru Kenyatta hired a PR firm to discredit the ICC during his election campaign.

“Disappearing people in the night, torturing dissidents, smearing opponents, using slave labour, and murdering protesters might be all in day’s work for dictators and war criminals. But the fact that they are paying European PR companies and lobbyists to whitewash their crimes, without any kind of accountability, is a shameful indictment of democracy in the EU,” said freelance journalist Katharine Ainger, commissioned by CEO to write the report.

“These case studies demonstrate yet again the need for mandatory transparency registers at the European and national levels.”

The report also shows how representing governments that are responsible for war crimes or serious human rights abuses contradicts the various codes of conduct and corporate social responsibility guidelines that many PR firms and lobbyists have signed up to.

Related issues: 
 
The latest revelations about ‘Steelie’ Neelie Kroes show that, when it comes to ethics and transparency, the Commission is complaisant about conflicts of interest and far too relaxed about the risk of corporate capture.

Ahead of the Commission's proposal for a new ‘mandatory’ lobby transparency register, CEO takes a look at the summary of the public consultation on the subject: civil society's call for better transparency systems faces the spin of corporate lobby groups and trade associations, which appear to promote transparency values but recommend limited implementation, loopholes and toothless management.

CEO's reaction to the the Bahamas leaks, which revealed ex-EU competition commissioner Neelie Kroes' offshore links.

The European Commission's upcoming regulation proposal for acrylamide, a dangerous contaminant formed in many starchy foods when cooked at high temperatures, relies on codes of best practices developed by food industry lobby groups.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) yesterday announced it will release the majority of the raw study data used in its toxicity assessment of glyphosate. This is a welcome step towards greater regulatory transparency.
The latest revelations about ‘Steelie’ Neelie Kroes show that, when it comes to ethics and transparency, the Commission is complaisant about conflicts of interest and far too relaxed about the risk of corporate capture.
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) told CEO today, and publicly announced on their website, that they would disclose most of the raw data of studies on glyphosate used in the EU's toxicity assessment of glyphosate.
In an attempt to fix its public image, Dieselgate-shaken Volkswagen names former EU Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard as member of its new ‘Sustainability Council’. Although the role is unpaid, it is highly questionable whether Volkswagen is actually committed to making up for its previous foul play.
 
 
 
 
 
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