Friday, May 20, 2005

UK-based Hill and Knowlton (H & K) PR to sell Uganda

BBC news today says the Ugandan government is to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to promote its image abroad after growing criticism. Excerpt:
Details of the move emerged a day after President Yoweri Museveni released a statement asking foreign donors to respect his country's sovereignty.

The UK recently cancelled 5m GBP ($10m) of aid, saying not enough had been done to establish fair multi-party politics.

A growing number of critical reports have appeared in the western media.

The foreign minister said on Wednesday that the government would be spending about $675,000 to improve their image.

The London-based company, Hill and Knowlton (H & K), will also be working with the government to try and improve relationships with human rights groups like Human Rights Watch.

The PR company itself been criticised in the past for aiding countries like Indonesia and Turkey, whose human rights records have also come under fire.

Since President Museveni came to power 19 years ago, Uganda has operated a unique political system which severely restricted political parties.

The political landscape will soon change, with multi-party elections expected next year.

Critics accuse President Museveni of using these changes to push through other constitutional changes to allow him to run for president again.

Rock star and Aid campaigner Sir Bob Geldof recently accused Mr Museveni of wanting to be president for life.
Companies like Hill and Knowlton UK being paid to create and spin propaganda in the Western media for the Ugandan government does not seem ethical. Doubt if they see it that way though.

Having spent a solid year tracking news on the Sudan, I have noticed a large degree of propaganda in mainstream media. I wrote a post remarking on when Sudanese officials began to sound different in the media. They appeared westernised overnight. Early last year, some Sudanese officials that were quoted in the press came across as sounding bizarre. Soon after, to counteract various accusations, press releases were fired out making Sudanese officials sound media savvy and Western.

Who knows how many PR firms like Hill and Knowlton Europe, Middle East, Africa are behind information we read in mainstream media. One needs to be wary of most news reports [major newswires included] as things are not always what they seem. Most of us bloggers do not write as well as journalists but we are good at sifting, sorting, dissecting, chewing over things and getting to the truth of matters. As independent voices with personal weblogs, we have no paymasters and can say what we feel. Journalists and PR firms can't.

Companies such as Hill and Knowlton aiding (and profiting from) countries abusing human rights, say they are working for the Ugandan Government to improve relations with human rights groups like Human Rights Watch. Some of us blog for human rights. Maybe one day, there will be a concerted effort [no doubt it is happening already at some political sites] to connect with bloggers and plant propaganda within blogs and comments.

As an aside, but not unrelated, here is an excerpt from a Blog Roundup today at Global Voices:

Two Uzbekistan-based Peace Corps volunteers with blogs have reacted differently to a Peace Corps directive telling them not to talk about the political situation. Working Definition has decided to keep blogging but avoid giving any more analysis on the Andijon situation. Wanderlustress has decided to stop blogging.



Blogger Álvaro Ramírez said...

Hi Ingrid,
I tried to send you a trackback, but it looks like blogger does not support it.
all the best

Monday, May 23, 2005  

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