MSL Brussels has had a contract with Saudi Arabia since 2015 to clean up the image of the Saudi kingdom, suspected of having links with Islamic extremists, according to the non-governmental Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO), De Morgen reported on Tuesday. However, the lobbying firm has done everything to keep the deal a secret, the daily reported the NGO as saying.
De Morgen mentioned examples of the lobby work by MSL Brussels, compiled by the NGO, adding that MSL Brussels had not responded to requests for comments.
Citing one such example, the daily recalled that when the Grand Mosque in Brussels fell into discredit, MSL Brussels spread the message that it was a “generalised false idea” that Saudi Arabia was spreading Islamic fundamentalism.
The lobbying firm, which is part of the Publicis Group, also “defend[ed] the Kingdom from accusations that it was linked to the export of terrorism, including by placing press stories on the subject in the wake of the Brussels terror attacks” on 22 March 2016, CEO noted.
“Promoting the popularity of Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Salman”, “whitewashing the country’s terrible human rights record”, and “deflecting international condemnation of the conduct by the Saudi-led coalition of the war in Yemen” were other elements of the lobbying done by MSL Brussels, the NGO stated in a press release posted on its website.
MSL Brussels is on the EU’s lobbying Transparency Register, but did not list Saudi Arabia as one of its clients, according to CEO.
“Given the Kingdom’s brutal reputation, there are plenty of reasons for MSL Brussels to wish to keep this contract silent,” the NGO commented.