While much of the Western media has long stood accused of being manipulated by government influence, according to Wikileaks, Saudi Arabia has control of its image by not only monitoring the media but by purchasing loyalties from Australia to Canada and “everywhere in between.”
In a release titled “Saudi Cables”, Wikileaks claims the media is controlled by the oil-rich kingdom of Saudi Arabia (2).
The report makes reference to the recent milestone beheading of Saudi’s 100th prisoner in 2015. Despite the story circulating the Internet, it was void of the Arab media and barely featured in western media.
Wikileaks posed a justifiably concerning question – if a “100th beheading in a year celebration” took place in a different country, media coverage is likely to have been different. And just how does a story as shocking as this one go unnoticed?
Neutralization and Containment
An article published on The Muslim Issue makes reference to the Wikileaks’ report, which cites documents that apparently prove that “extensive efforts” are being made to monitor and co-opt Arab media (3).
The co-opting strategy is executed in two ways – the “carrot and stick” approach, which is referred to in the documents as “containment” and “neutralization”. This approach, claims the release, is tailored depending on the media and market in question.
This “neutralized” approach involves journalists and media outlets to not so much praise or defend the Saudi Arabia kingdom, but to refrain from published news that would be seen as a negative reflection of the Saudi kingdom.
“Containment” takes the stance of publishing praiseworthy news stories that not only paint a positive picture of the kingdom but also attack those who dare to criticize the Gulf state.
Wikileaks alleges that these “neutralization” and “containment” strategies are achieved by the Saudi state through the exchange of the purchasing of “hundreds and thousands of subscriptions in targeted publications.” Media outlets then “return the favor” by becoming an “asset” in the Gulf state’s powerful propaganda agenda.
Manipulating the Media
“The kingdom effectively buys reverse ‘shares’ in the media outlets, where the cash ‘dividends’ flow the opposite way, from the shareholder to the media outlet. In return Saudi Arabia gets political ‘dividends’ – an obliging press,” writes Wikileaks.
Though these are not the only methods of media control the Saudi state employ, as according to Wikileaks, when “containment” methods fails, a confrontation strategy is implemented. The Saudi Cables documents apparently show concerns related to the media portrayal of the 2011 social upheavals in the Arab world, of which Western media gave the name “Arab Springs.”
The documents highlight that following the toppling of Mubarak, coverage of the upheavals were “driven by public opinion instead of driving public opinion.”
How did the Saudi Ministry react? By giving financial support to influential media institutions in Tunisia, which was the birthplace of the social uprising, claims Wikileaks.
Instead of having to rely on such manipulative and temptingly lucrative strategies to control media outlets and sway public perception, on its home turf all that is required to manipulate and control national media is a “wave of the Royal hand,” claims Saudi Cables.
References & Image Credits:
(1) TSW: What Is Propaganda – CIA and Hollywood Are Offering Perfect Examples
(2) Wikileaks: Saudi Cables
(3) The Muslim Issue