PR agencies from London, UK, are among the most wanted to aid foreign regimes like those from Saudi Arabia, Rwanda, Kazakhstan and Sri Lanka. But the problem is that these countries have the some of the world’s worst reputations, because of human rights violations and corruption that seem to be a constant practice. Add to these other controversial activities, like torture, censure, and so on, and you get the picture. The fact that UK PR agencies are so popular when it comes to reputation laundering is not really something Britain can be proud of.
A recent editorial in The Guardian explains the situation in detail, naming London PR companies that advise foreign regimes, and even giving revenue details for such practices.
The “lucky” PRs are earning as much as £2m per contract. They are sought by politicians from Russia, Madagascar, Sudan and China, they are sought by foreign governments as well. Many of these politicians are suspected of crimes against humanity. It’s a dirty job, indeed, but some of UK’s PRs are willing to get their hands dirty:
“I am not an international ethics body,” said Lord Bell of Bell Pottinger Sans Frontières (the division of Chime which works most with foreign regimes), cited by The Guardian. “We do communications work. If people want to communicate their argument we take the view that they are allowed to do so.”
This kind of “altruism” however comes in contradiction with PRCA’s voluntary code of conduct, that says: “political consultants must advise clients where their activities may be illegal, unethical or contrary to professional practice, and to refuse to act for a client in pursuance of any such activity.”
Many of the UK PR companies who aid foreign regimes have not signed the code, and Bell Pottinger Sans Frontières is one of these. Other companies, like Portland and Hill & Knowlton, have and their representatives maintain that they abide by the code (which probably makes their job almost impossible). Other companies working with foreign governments are not even members of the PRCA – one of these, BGR Gabara, represents the Kazakh government.
I wonder, where were all these “experts” when Tony Hayward was under the fire?