Government seeking international PR firm to counter negative publicity, “rally alliance of support”

Additional reporting by Neil Merrett and Zaheena Rasheed.

The new Maldivian government is in the process of recruiting an international public relations firm to counter negative publicity and “gain understanding and public acknowledgement of the Maldives from the international community.”

Minivan News obtained a request for proposals (RFP) document issued by the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC) on April 9, outlining the government’s media strategy and seeking a company to provide “strategic counsel”, “stakeholder engagement”, “proactive” media relations and “key message and storybook development”.

Objectives for the three month contract, bids for which close on April 14, include boosting tourism confidence, improving the image of the Maldives, and demonstrating the government’s “commitment to strengthening democracy and sustainable development”.

The successful agency will be required to target stakeholders in the UK, USA, Commonwealth countries, “all relevant EU institutions”, academic institutions and NGOs, “arrange 1:1 meetings with influential and open minded potential champions”, and “arrange briefings to build links at various levels with the UK, US, Commonwealth and major European governments.”

The agency will “feed in academic arguments to those identified”, and “determine champions who are willing to speak publicly on Maldives”, in a bid to “Rally an alliance of support for the Maldives”.

Locally, the chosen company will be required to “assist with the roll out of policy and other announcements to media, parliamentarians,government, NGOs and others.”

The successful bidder will be required to develop “key messages, including facts and proof points” concerning “events surrounding the recent incidents in Maldives”, pushing the “core platforms of democracy and sustainable development.”

The MMPRC will task the agency to “Begin the process of developing relationships with key journalists who are friendly and receptive”, and “Provide avenues for proactively seeding positive stories”.

“One to two high profile, credible and friendly” journalists would be targeted for “1:1 relationships”, while a press trip of 3-5 reporters would be arranged before June.

The agency should furthermore “Ensure inaccuracies in coverage are corrected immediately to avoid pick-up and further dissemination” and “help provide balance to negative stories”.

President Mohamed Waheed Hassan’s Spokesperson, Abbas Adil Riza, said he was unaware the government was seeking to retain an international PR firm.

“I think it’s a good idea if we lack capacity to do it in the country,” he suggested.

Negative media coverage was “tarnishing the image of the Maldives”, Riza said, “because the former President [Mohamed Nasheed] is not getting what he wants.”

Such an agency should “lobby the press, make sure they report what actually happened,” Riza recommended.

“The MDP burned down buildings in acts of terrorism. We must expose the MDP for what it is. It is not democratic,” he said.

Deputy Minister of Tourism, Mohamed Maleeh Jamal, said the MMPRC had been recruiting PR agents in several countries, including Germany and the UK.

“The main focus right now is increasing investor confidence. We have to include all fronts include economic angles,” he said. “There has been a barrage of international media coverage and we need to try to convert this interest into positive coverage.”

Negative media coverage of Maldivian political strife had particularly impacted emerging markets, Jamal said. “We’ve a trend of delayed bookings from China, the Middle East and Africa – emerging markets,” he said, adding that traditional markets, such as Germany and France, had been largely unaffected.

Jamal said he was unaware of the responses to the April 9 RFP: “That’s at a technical level. I’m not involved.”

Public relations in the Maldives

Politicians in the opposition parties under Nasheed’s government, including Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) leader Dr Hassan Saeed (now advisor to the President), have previously used the London-based Campaign Company.

Chief Executive of the Campaign Company, Graeme Wilson, told Minivan News this week that “We have no relationship with the Maldivian government”.

According to former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, founder of the Campaign Company, Jonathan Upton, visited the Maldives in 2011 and recommended that leader of the Dhivehi Rayithunge Party (DRP), Ahmed Thasmeen Ali, sideline the former President- then the DRP’s ‘Honorary Leader’.

“[Upton] did not have any idea of the views of the Maldivian people and the political situation of the Maldives. His recommendation to keep me aside, without knowing the support of the majority of the Maldivian people as they have seen the development and changes during my presidency, was not a politically mature recommendation,” Gayoom wrote, in a 12 page open-letter published in March 2011 outlining Thasmeen’s alleged leadership failings.

“You are showing characteristics that cannot be prevented after being deceived by the words of people who are unaware of the political scenario of this country,” Gayoom wrote.

The Campaign Company had been engaged by Gayoom “to build his party and advise on how to manage and develop the DRP”, foreign minister under Gayoom and Nasheed, Dr Ahmed Shaheed, told Minivan News in June 2011.

In 2010, Dr Hassan Saeed used the Campaign Company during a PR tour of UK to meet MPs and journalists, representing the opposition coalition.

During the visit, Minivan News obtained an email exchange with a lobbyist then contracted by the Campaign Company, Peter Craske, soliciting a meeting between the recipient and the DQP, “which is formed of an alliance between the DRP and MDP parties”. Craske subsequently apologised for the error, and noted that the email did not result in any meetings.

Hill & Knowlton leads Maldives’ democratic reform

Another PR firm, New York-headquartered Hill & Knowlton (H&K), was commissioned by Gayoom in 2003 and subsequently recommended – and in some cases implemented – most of the pre-2008 democratic reform in the Maldives.

H&K’s report on the Maldives, titled ‘Issues audit and communications strategy for the Government of the Maldives’, revealed that the firm was responsible for much of the human rights and governance reform that paved the way for the country’s first democratic election in 2008.

The vast majority of recommendations in the report were subsequently implemented, portraying Gayoom as mellowing in the lead up to 2008 following the autocratic excesses of his 30 year rule.

H&K’s recommendations included the separation of the security forces into police, military and correctional institutions, constitutional reform and the introduction of multi-party democracy, strategies for the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM), reform of the Majlis, reform of the criminal justice system, including an end to the practice of flogging, and even the introduction of religious freedom.

“Expectations have now been raised and presidential promises made; the delivery of meaningful reform is now required,” H&K said in 2003.

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32 thoughts on “Government seeking international PR firm to counter negative publicity, “rally alliance of support””

  1. NASHEED had a full time British PR officer Paul Roberts on state payroll past 3 yrs to promote his govt n cover up his undemocratic ways, nasheeds college mate David Hardingham was also on state payroll living in London to promote NASHEED n is currently repaying by running a boycott on Maldives tourism. NASHEED also had his personal friend simon Hawkins on state payroll to 'prom

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  2. Coup government never complined to common wealth or EU calls for early elections....Now what are they trying to achieve from international community? So pathetic!

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  3. We will never forget that you came to power with a coup. No matter how you spin it, how many external PR companies you hire. We all know that you destroyed a fledgling democracy in order to bring the old dictatorship back.

    PIC, HRCM and everything else has failed. They have lost their mandates, and they failed or refuse to investigate the most gross violation of human rights in the history of Maldives since Maumoon Abdul Gayoom murdered Evan Naseem.

    WE WILL NEVER FORGET EVAN NASEEM.

    And how dare you (Waheed) get two of Gayoom's kids into your cabnet. One of which is going around claiming there would be no election for fear of civil war.

    WE DEMAND ELECTIONS.

    Maldives is a democracy you cannot let it fall back to nepotism & dictatorship. No matter how many Widhadh, Jeffrey Waheeds or Dhunya, Ghassan Maumoons you automatically appoint to positions of power to terrorize our citizens.

    This is a disgrace, however your PR companies spin it, we will know the truth.

    When democracy comes back to Maldives, we will remember what was done. This time we will not forgive.

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  4. Haha! another lame strategy! the international community is not blind. the present Government can go on hiring PR's and paying them from the tax payers money but no one can deny the fact that you all over threw a democratically elected leader who gave up his entire adult life working for the justice of the ordinary Maldivian citizens. Mr. President, you came to power with the support of the very people who are trying to destroy the country and what it stands for. you hold hands with the dictator who even with mere mention of his name in a negative way was arrested and tortured!The very same people whose cases of corruption was so high that they needed to be in power to hush their cases. You can spin all you want but you cannot evade the truth from MAldivians and how it was like living in Maumoon's era!! Waheed you are a disgrace to Stanford. One would have hoped that you would have more sense than this..

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  5. A coup is a coup is a coup is a coup.. there is no way out of it. There is no way to legitimize it.

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  6. Back to the ways of gayyoom. Not surprising since, he seems to be pulling all the strings. No amount of PR crap will hide the facts. It's a coup!

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  7. Quoting the RFP document as currently advertised, the role of the winning media agency will have to "advise the (new) government on its policy announcements.... " and provide "key message and storybook development...... for events surrounding recent incidents in the Maldives" and goes on to demand "to develop a storybook and materials that provides several different angles and story lines for use with media, government, NGO's, academics and other stakeholders".

    The RFP document continues by asking the winning agency to "Develop a media list of the most influential outlets and journalists with whom to engage, targeting top tier media across the US, the UK and major countries in the EU.." and "Look to leverage outcomes from relationships with governments, academics and NGO's". It also requests "Develop a high level (non tourism) stakeholder maps... in UK, USA, Commonwealth, in relevant EU institutions, Council of Europe, European Commission, relevant commissioners and Department European Parliament" and " ....arrange 1:1 meetings with influential and open minded potential champions across the UK and relevant EU bodies" and "Determine champions who are willing to speak publicly on the Maldives". To some, this may appear a routine agenda for any incumbent government. However, the new regime has a strangle hold on all media within the Maldives and it is now attempting to do the same internationally after a highly controversial gain of office.

    There are repeated calls from the governments of the US, UK, The Commonwealth, India and many others for an early election as being fundamental to return peace and democracy to the Maldives. The new government intends to target these very countries but also claiming it will be in the interests of their tourism marketing and promotion. From a tourism perspective the Maldives core markets are very different for example: China, Germany, France, Italy, Japan and Russia. The US has less then a 2% market share.

    The current regime intends to use the Maldives strong tourism brand and media their network to rail road their own political agenda internationally to avoid an early election. This is proven in the RFP document requesting a PR agency to specifically target countries ("stakeholder map") that are demanding an early election. There is no interest in targeting the countries that provide the highest volumes in terms of visitors and tourism business.

    On delivering the demands of the current RFP, the winning PR agency will effectively contribute to the silencing of the coup d'tat and the human rights abuses of the Maldivian population. They will also effectively air brush out the recent police and military brutality of innocent protesters and the corrupt judicial system crisis that led to the coup.

    Using a cleverly devised, highly paid, professional international PR agency to "develop a story book" and "leverage outcomes" to the world's media are the hallmarks of all brutal, autocratic dictatorships. The current government is determined not to let true democracy return to the Maldives, the world's first 100% Islamic democratic country.

    The MMPRC has been hijacked by the new regime to clear up a mess of its own making hiding behind the mask called tourism.

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  8. here are so many good PR companies in the Maldives why farm this out over seas? Look at the fuss when Keen Media was employed - from the very same people that are organising this RFP.

    Or perhaps, this is part of the PR machine that we get from a brutal lieing dictatorship that are trying to convince the world that they have done absolutley nothing wrong - and so they can avoid an early election!

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  9. This clearly illustrates the ongoing media cover up and spin of the new unelected government of the Maldives after of the shocking events of 7th February 2012, in the capital Male. The subsequent social media videos now available and evidence has meant that many international observers have now declared the incident a coup d'tat.

    The role and function of the MMPRC is to "create demand for the tourism industry of the Maldives thus strengthening the entire economy for the overall benefit of all citizens". The MMPRC is not designed to show any internal party political bias or to unduly influence any media coverage in the name of tourism internationally.

    However, the latest RFP for a new international PR agency is a clear attempt by the new regime to manipulate international media coverage and opinion. The new regime has received significant negative media coverage since the ousting of the first democratic elected President, Mohamed Nasheed at gun point in February. By actively advertising to hire and pay for the services of a "professional and expert" PR agency the new government aims to spin the facts of the recent police and military coup that was financed by a select group of rich resort owners. The change has resulted in the return of the former brutal dictatorship that ruled for 30 years up to the end of 2008.

    We are astonished that the role of and the good name of the tourism brand of the Maldives has essentially been hijacked by the current government to clear up their own chaos.

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  10. No amount of makeup is going to change the face of this very ugly regime!

    On the one hand, they are reducing benefits to the people such as Aasandha, and wasting millions of dollars on PR!

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  11. Waheed his old friend who is doing PR work. He is currently paid $20,000 a month by Deen. This is way to pay to his friends.

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  12. @shazly, even waheed's government has a PR employee a writer of Buddhist books.Hiring a PR firm costs a lot more then having an individual in the presidents office. Gayoom had HK paying them huge amounts of money that could've been used to better the life of citizens. it's basically understood that when your government wanna hire a PR firm it means they are doing bad things that they wanna whitewash. Wake up n see what is going on here

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  13. Coup or not, bottom line is Anni failed.

    Legit or not, BMW & Co is in power now.

    Demand for non-hypocritic parliamentarians who reflect their constituents.

    If majority of girls and women want to let go of Saudi-model oppression of women, change to constitution to allow freedom as declared in the Universal declaration of Human rights! If majority of Maldives wants western style governance, let it be allowed via constitution.

    That is what I demand.

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  14. There is a person called " Tho pee". He is more than enough for this job. Lol

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  15. Lets quote some RFPs n iulaans n stuff ..
    N make 90% of an article.. That's journalism

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  16. The cult followers of Nasheed calls it a coup because it is they follow their leader.

    Nasheed's govt fell because of his stuburness nothing else.

    If Nasheed was removed by a coup he doesnt need to call for an election. He has to claim it thru Supreme court and if court finds in his favor he will be reinstated.

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  17. I have noticed Minivan News never reports any drug related news. I suppose Nazim & Nasheed the two brothers dont like it.

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  18. Present Maldives is a military state why democratic people around the world supporting this type of government. They can stop coming Maldivies till the election happen.
    Gasim has money to manage between period for coup waheed.
    a short cut Maumoon lost in 2008 election.

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  19. Nasheed also used British PR firms and also had British nationals employed in the President's Office.
    Furthermore, Hardingham was also employed and a huge salary was paid to him and his crony Simon was also employed in the Tourism sector, though he has no experience in that at all.
    All governments hire PR firms and it should not be an issue when Anni did it and it should be not be an issue now.

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  20. @Jameel - Hardingam was an Honorary Consul. Get some education, dude and learn about what international diplomacy is. Hon.Consuls do not get paid.

    Nasheed never used a British PR firm. Hill & Knowlton was employed by Maumoon. So Stop spreading misinformation.

    It is a mega-failure of Maldives Embassies in New York and London and Brussels that the government has to employ a PR Firm. What is Jeffery Salim Waheed, son of President Waheed doing with his fat salary from the public coffers if he cannot promote his daddy's Roadmap in the US? Now we have to pay the PR firm's bill too. And no money for Aasandha. Sucks big time.

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  21. you guys are born with just one colour and one lobe in the brain. You are all handicapped illiterate a**Holes !!!

    for you when the churches back you and gives instructions that is called ............

    for you the any thief with a yellow button is a hero, regardless of of rapist or a child molester ...

    for you nothing is wrong when you are wrapped in yellow.

    Look at male city council and tell yourselves that this is a zoooooooooooo..

    you all are a disgrace !!!

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  22. From the moment Waheed and his Masters came into power, they have been very boldly saying that international community need not interfere in the internal matters of this Country, to the point that Dunya even suggested that we may withdraw from Commonwealth! So why the sudden desperation for PR to polish the coup government's image in the international arena? Ayya you've made good points there and dhonfuthu, looks like you belong to another color to be so biased against yellow...it's not just a problem with yellow, its a problem with all colors! Most people defend their colors blindly, except of course those who are constantly changing colors!

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  23. what about police distructing MNDF headquarters, police headquarters, beating MPs, beating locals and distributing weapons to local to face National Defence force loyal to Country on 07/02/2012. these guys should be in jail or should be hanged befor introgating persons who are balamming to burn goverment properties on 08/02/2012.

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  24. @ jameel
    The MDP never had to hire a PR machine manufacturing lies because they never had anything to hide. Hardingham was not paid and Simon had over 23 years experience in marketing as the MMPRC did every ministry as well as precious tourism. It is not all about your pockets and profit at the expense of our nation. If you can not win a arguement on facts, just pay someone to point a gun in someone's face, that will do it.

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  25. Ayya, you do not know who I am obviously and I do not know who you are. Yes David Hardingham was the Honourary Consul but he was paid too.His expenses were paid too. I am a member of MDP and I know exactly what goes in the UK a lot more than you or most people do.
    Nasheed did use UK PR firms and even till he resigned he had UK based people on his pay role. Some of these guys were hired by Doc.Shaheed when he was FM. Nasheed kept them and even now some are probably still employed by this administration.

    As for Salim Waheed, who actually sent him to New York? It was Nasheed's administration.
    Get a life. Nasheed bungled and that is some of you who worship him cannot take. I have no truck with Waheed but I do not worship any man like some of you worship Nasheed and Gayoom.

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  26. @Jameel My my someone claims to be an expert on the UK lol.

    What on earth made you think you know more about the UK than I do? Huh? There is not an iota on truth in what you said about Nasheed hiring UK PR firms. Name me one and I will check them out.

    And why are you lot so scared of saying Jeffery Salim Waheed's full name? sacred that people may find Jeffery boy has a non-muslim first name? He was just a mere intern there in NY during Nasheed administration. It was this regime that gave him and his cousin First Secretary's post. A highly paid senior diplomatic political post. And if the mission is doing what they are paid do to, then there is no need to hire PR firms.

    And "all governments hire PR firms" right? All dictatorial regimes do. Heard of Bell Pottinger? google it.

    You missing the freezing temperature hey? Better get back. 😛

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  27. "No amount of makeup is going to change the face of this very ugly regime!". Absolutely correct!
    Anyone trying to make this coupe a legitimate one is committing a crime towards humanity and democracy!

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  28. in the past 3 years Paul Roberts and you jj Robinson were is Maldives covering Nasheed unconstitutional actions from international media...How can any president order an unconstitutional arrest of any individual and keep a person in enforced disappearance...if this incident had happened in the UK what would happen to the president....but both of you were covering Nasheed's action.my friends what he did was so barbaric that he could face charges in the international court theHague..

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