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Archive for September 2011

Racepoint on Gaddafi: “The Leader is an intellectual and philosopher”

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Racepoint Group were retained to promote Gaddafi as “an intellectual and philosopher”

More on the PR firm Racepoint Group from the US government’s public register of “Foreign Agents”.

Today’s find is from that not-so-long-ago moment when publicly associating with Libya’s Colonel Gaddafi was less toxic than today – and it makes an interesting compare-and-contrast with yesterday’s entry.

In 2007 Racepoint were assigned by a company named Monitor Group – whose activities on behalf of the Gadaffi regime are somewhat better known – to promote Gaddafi’s “democratic” government in the run-up to the 30th anniversary of his seizing power.

According to the project proposal, which was only submitted to the Department of Justice last month, Racepoint planned to use this anniversary “to drive global awareness and recognition for Libya’s accomplishments with the People’s Authority of Libya and related democratic initiatives.”

Racepoint would “leverage” a planned public debate between Gaddafi (“hereafter The ‘Leader'”), British sociologist Anthony Giddens, and political theorist Benjamin Barber “to draw world attention to several important positioning points”. Key among these were that “Libya is an Arab Muslim country engaging in its own form of democracy”, “The Leader is an intellectual and philosopher”, “The Jamahiriya system is a radical social experiment based on an alternative direct democracy governance model…”, and “The importance of the 30th Anniversary of the Declaration of the People’s Authority as a democratic milestone”.

“Effective execution” would “work to influence perceptions of Libya and the Leader with international media, and ultimately, the international community; enhance the international image and prestige of the Leader by establishing his willingness to engage in serious intellectual debate before a world audience; and broaden universal understanding of governmental and economic reforms being undertaken in Libya.”

The company would also work to secure a “media partner” for the event, with the BBC “the preferred partner for a number of reasons: the ongoing relationship with Sir David Frost, its global prestige, audience and reach, and its online, radio and television properties”.

“Preferred” print media would be the International Herald Tribune, New York Times, Guardian, Reuters and the Economist.

In the weeks before the debate, Racepoint would engage in “strategic ‘leaking’ of certain debate topics” and arrange “Briefings by representatives of the Leader or Mr. Giddens or Barber with a small handful of global political bloggers”.

The “project fee” for this 60-day campaign would be $75,000 – plus expenses.

There’s not a huge amount of other information publicly available about Racepoint’s work for Gaddafi, but a quick Google search turned up this:

Groundbreaking Website Reveals Libya’s Commitment to Democracy

Following a first-of-its kind event in which Muammar al-Gaddafi engaged in a free-form debate on democracy, the World Center for Green Book Studies today launched a groundbreaking Website as part of Libya’s efforts to openly engage the international community on democracy and economic development in Libya. The Website address is: http://www.LibyaInTheGlobalAge.com…

The two-hour debate focused on three distinct themes:

– Democracy in Libya – the Jamahiriya System: An exploration of the vision that led to the founding of the People’s Authority in Libya thirty years ago, Gaddafi’s aspirations for the Libyan people and the way that they engage with government.

– Globalization since the founding of the People’s Authority: A broad conversation about how the world has changed in the last thirty years – how people think and feel about the globalization of government, democracy, ideas, money, culture and politics, in an age of security threats and the implications of this change for Libya.

– What the next 30 years of the People’s Authority in Libya will bring: A discussion of the role of the Libyan state and democracy in a modern context, charting the practical progress of Libya and the increasingly important role that the civil and economic sectors will play in the country and the region.

Please visit http://www.LibyaInTheGlobalAge.com for more information.

CONTACT: Racepoint Group George Snell 781-487-4608 gsnell@racepointgroup.com

Reuters, meanwhile, tells the story slightly differently:

Gaddafi debate shows limits to change in Libya

Muammar Gaddafi, ever the political showman, has chosen the talk show as a new way of sending a message to the West: Economic reform will help Libya, but political change is not needed.

Sitting around a table in front of the international media, he said in an unprecedented debate with two Western thinkers and a celebrated British journalist that the ballot box was not for his oil-exporting nation…

The tape of Friday’s debate will be distributed to international television channels and may be placed on a Libyan government Web site, said George Snell, an official of a U.S. public relations firm involved in organizing Friday’s event…

“Direct people’s democracy in coming years will be a model for other countries,” the leader told U.S. political scientist Benjamin Barber and sociologist Anthony Giddens in a discussion moderated by journalist David Frost…

If the debate is broadcast in Libya, the images of give and take of the discussion could strike a blow for free expression in a country with a state-controlled media.

Gaddafi was challenged and sometimes contradicted by the Western experts on his opposition to the ballot box.

“I have a basic source of disagreement with Mr. Gaddafi,” sociologist Giddens told the gathering, using language never publicly heard in Libya.

But Saturday’s Libyan newspapers splashed reports of a meeting with political associates Gaddafi held later on Friday in which he denounced Western domination of the world and urged Libyans to train militarily to prepare to fight off invaders.

There was no word of the debate.

Written by Richard Wilson

September 5, 2011 at 7:51 pm

Rwandan government’s $50,000-a-month PR strategy revealed

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Racepoint Group worked to promote “Rwanda’s visionary leader”

A detailed PR strategy prepared by lobbyists for the Rwandan government has been published by the US authorities. Under US law, lobby firms working on behalf of other governments are required to register their activities publicly.

The memo, which was prepared by “Racepoint Group” in 2009, is addressed to the Rwandan Information Minister from company bigwigs Larry Weber and Peter Prodromou – whose previous experience includes “working with the leaders of Saudi Arabia and Libya to positively impact global public perception and support negotiating positions with key allies”.

The strategy aims: to “build a strong and sustained Image campaign communicating the successes of Rwanda with key stakeholders in the political and financial elite communities” and “Offset the negative and factually incorrect information of those parties with vested interests in mis-portraying Rwanda’s advancements”.

Campaign themes include “Rwanda’s Visionary Leader… highlighting President Kagame and his visionary leadership” and “The Rwandan Miracle: Healing of a Nation”. The company’s fees are listed as $50,000 per month plus $2,500 – £3,500 per month for “out of pocket expenses”. The average Rwandan has an income of $510 per year.

Racepoint suggests that Rwanda has a “significant image problem”, in part because “Certain NGOs, such as Human Rights Watch, continue to advance a story of an unstable Rwanda” . Racepoint seems dismissive of this picture, alleging that Human Rights Watch and others are presenting it merely “as a means of continuing to attract donors and wield influence in the region”.

The PR firm then outlines “a consolidated set of tactics to publicize both Rwanda and President Kagame“. This will initially involve “leveraging top print and broadcast outlets to communicate the Rwanda success story… and, in the process, validate it based on their credibility”, together with “a proactive campaign that leverages the web to seed stories favorable to Rwanda”.

Racepoint singles out  the Huffington Post as a particular online media target, together with “careful seeding across the blogosphere” to “initiate an offensive to control the organic search on Rwanda and set the agenda in print and broadcast”.

“At the same time, we will blunt the online impact of our opposition by initiating a wall of defense debunking their accusations… we will identify and selectively respond to the most egregious… we will erect, on free social networks, ‘walls’ of pro-Rwandan data that debunks myths and links to Rwanda’s national web site. This will enable us to establish captive audiences on the web…”

Further elements mooted include a “Celebrity Visitor Program” a “Global College Tour” for President Kagame, and “challenging heads of NGOs that are the country’s largest detractors to public, televised debates on networks like CNN, BBC and al-Jazeera. This will provide Rwandan officials with the opportunity to debunk mythology being propagated by hostile NGOs and other detractors.”

The Guardian last year profiled Racepoint’s PR work for the Rwandan government, and highlighted critical comments by the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative:

The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, in a report last year, found that Rwanda has “excellent public relations machinery” which has succeeded in “persuading the key members of the international community that it has an exemplary constitution emphasising democracy, power-sharing, and human rights which it fully respects”. It concluded: “The truth is, however, the opposite.”

Rwanda’s constitution, the report said, was “a facade which hides the exclusionary and repressive nature of the regime”, “basic human rights are in an unsatisfactory state”, “censorship is prevalent” and there are “serious concerns about the level of political freedom”.

Written by Richard Wilson

September 4, 2011 at 8:16 pm