Maldives government selects Ruder Finn for “controversial” brief: PR Week

The Maldives’ government has appointed US-based public relations agency Ruder Finn in a deal worth upwards of US$150,000 a month, reports public relations industry magazine PR Week.

However Deputy Minister of Tourism Mohamed Maleeh Jamal told Minivan News that the government was still evaluating the bids.

“I can’t disclose the costs or names, but we are evaluating three companies: one in India, one in China, and another in America,” Maleeh said.

President Dr Mohamed Waheed’s spokesperson, Abbas Adil Riza, told Minivan News that the appointed company would only be responsible for promoting tourism, and would not be involved in politics or government.

Tthe request for proposals (RFP) document issued by the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC) on April 9 states that 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.”

Speaking to PR Week, Ruder Finn’s Senior Vice-President and Ethics Officer Emmanuel Tchividjian defended company’s decision to take on the contract.

“We believe Ruder Finn can contribute positively to the people of the Maldives, a country that depends on tourism for the bulk of its economy,” Tchividjian stated.

“Prior to deciding to pursue the tender, we closely examined the complexity of the current political situation in the country. We were encouraged by the desire of the current government, in place according to the country’s constitution, to focus on ensuring stability, democracy and transparency in the Maldives, including a free press,” he said, but acknowledged “diverse points of view” surrounding the change of government on February 7.

The 50,000 member-strong Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), which was ousted from power on February 7 following what then President Mohamed Nasheed described as a coup d’état planned by the opposition, sponsored by wealthy resort tycoons and carried out by a mutinous police and military, continues to maintain that the new President’s government is illegitimate and a return to the autocratic era of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

David Hardingham, founder of the UK-based Friends of Maldives (FOM) NGO that has issued a travel advisory against several resorts owned by those by the MDP accused of involvement in the coup, suggested to PR Week that Ruder Finn should “tear up the contract, and think twice in the future about with whom it does business.”

“Clearly our hope was that no responsible PR firm would shake hands with a dictatorship that toppled a democratically elected leader at gunpoint,” the FOM founder told the PR industry trade magazine.

“We can only ask ourselves: is a company with offices in seven countries and a long list of respectable clients really so desperate for the money? Because this kind of work does nothing for its reputation,” he added.

Controversial clients

Ruder Finn is no stranger to controversial clients. Up until the late 90s the company was instrumental in crafting an infamous campaign for US cigarette giant Phillip Morris disputing evidence that smoking was harmful to public health.

According to Sourcewatch, in 2004 the Ruder Finn was appointed to promote Israeli national carrier El Al, while in 2008 the company’s Israel branch represented a “Facing Jihad” conference, “a summit of European lawmakers who are united in their shared belief that Islam today poses a serious threat to Western civilization.”

PR in the Maldives

Other foreign PR companies that have been active in the Maldives have included the Campaign Palace, a London-based group engaged by former President Gayoom to develop his Dhivehi Rayithunge Party (DRP), and New York-headquartered Hill & Knowlton (H&K), which 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 2003 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.

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 and an end to the practice of flogging.


26 thoughts on “Maldives government selects Ruder Finn for “controversial” brief: PR Week”

  1. Tut Tut Sheikh Imran Bin No Brain and his co zealots will not be happy with a company which represented the "zionists" and the evil El Al airline.

    The irony is killing me!

  2. So who is lying? The regime or Ruder Finn if the former is claiming the contract is yet to be given and the latter claiming it already has got it?

  3. David Hardigham is the one desperate for Maldivian money. He longs for the day his follower Nasheed is back in power in Maldives. Then Hardigham can have his fat paying job as Maldives rep in Salisbury.
    Money is nice,Mr Hardigham. You agree.

  4. Hey Mohamed, get ur facts right!! Bagees like u try to make Maldivians blind. The job david had was a volunteer job. Do u know the meaning of "volunteer" it's a job u don't get paid for ! U show us proof that he was paid before u open ur bagee mouth!! Traitors of our beloved nation.

  5. unbelievable! is this the same Dr. Waheed who was so against Mark Limon working in Geneva Mission. he was so against renewing his contract when Nasheed's government came into power. So what has changed. paying a foreign company t over 90,000 pounds per months..that is fine for him i suppose as long as it is to bolster his imaje. oh! the hypocracy!! none of these guys give a hoop about the country. it's what they get, filthy, dirty hypocrites. Waheed you should be ashamed of yourself

  6. @ Ahmed, Hardingham never got one dollar. He just wants democracy and human rights in the Maldives. Nothing more or less. You, however have helped yourself to corruption and theft of the nations's wealth. Greed and and power. The old dictatorship is back.

  7. Ruder Finn are JEW LOVERS!!!!

    I think this is what you call a PR own goal, BIG TIME.

  8. "David Hardingham, founder of the UK-based Friends of Maldives (FOM) NGO that has issued a travel advisory against several resorts owned by those by the MDP accused of involvement in the coup"

    This sentence itself stands as proof that David hardingham and the so-called Friends of Maldives organisation is merely a propaganda outlet for MDP, and does not care for the welfare of the Maldivian people.

    Any organisation that calls for acts damaging to our tourism industry, and calls for tourists not to come to Maldives so they can achieve their political objectives cannot be believed to represent the rights of the Maldivian people. No matter who is in the presidency seat of Maldives, the tourism industry must go on, as it sustains the livelihoods of thousands of Maldivians and their families. Calling for tourists not to visit resorts will not affect David Hardingham living in UK, or Farahanaz faisal, rather it will be the Maldivian tourist workers who will suffer as their incomes diminish due to low tourist arrivals. Yet, MDP and Friends of Maldives seems unrelenting in their goal to cripple the Maldivian tourism industry.

    Where were these so-called Friends of Maldives in the three and a half years Nasheed was in presidency ? Did Human rights abuses dissappear during Nasheed's presidency ? The minute that Nasheed resigned, these people were out yelling human rights human rights.

    Who are Friends of Maldives to call for boycott of Maldives tourism resorts ? Who is David Hardingham to try and speak on behalf of the Maldivian people ? Can a non-Maldivian understand and wish for good things for our nation ? No they cannot. Ultimately his wish is not prosperity for Maldives, but rather prosperity for MDP and Nasheed, and he wills nothing but destruction for the rest of Maldivians who do not bow to the MDP ideal and the MDP philosophy.

    Are we Maldivians going out to UK and protesting against their politicians and calling for boycott of UK resorts and institutions everytime some political scandal occurs in UK ? The UK Govt should take action against Hardingham and these Friends of Maldives organisation. By acting of their own accord, they are causing untold damage to Maldivian citizens working in tourist resorts. This is a form of warfare, and UK government should arrest people like Hardingham who strive to cause harm to foreign nationals by their idiocy. Why not go and protest in Afganistan or Iraq against the human rights abuses going on over there. Why is David Hardingham so obsessed with trying to destroy our Maldivian tourism Industry ?

    Politics is politics, but leave our tourism industry and our tourist resort workers out of it. These Friends of Maldives are the true enemies of Maldives.

  9. Sorry, my comment was meant for Mohamed, not Ahmed.
    Mind you, evidentially with this regime you can invent any lies with no evidence and accuse anyone in public so I am not worried. It works for Jameel, Waheed, Gayoom etc......

  10. Let me understand this.... RUDER FINN worked with Israel to attack Islam!!!

    What do you think you are playing at Maleeh???? They are Jews!!

  11. Its so nice to see that the new regime have seen the error of their ways and decided to embrace the broader religious community. Its truly heart-warming.

  12. OutragedMaldivianCitizen - "This is a form of warfare, and UK government should arrest people like Hardingham who strive to cause harm to foreign nationals by their idiocy. " lol

    I didn't know that United Kingdom was a dictatorship that arrested people for speaking their minds.

    Oops. Forgot Maldives was one so you will not understand that democratic countries do exist in the world.

  13. @ outragedmaldiviancitizen.
    Don,t pretend to be an average citizen. We know who you are. If you did not help yourself to power by using guns and threats, you would not be targeted. Friends of Maldives are not interested in harming anyone outside the coup. Read the websites you idiot. = www.Maldives Travel Advisory breaks it down properly.

    You were right about one thing, there was no human rights abuse during Nasheed,s reign, none! Why, because he knows what it is like to be wrongly imprisoned and physically tortured, by you!!!

  14. I so have proof David did get paid for just doing self proclaimed 'voluntary' job. Thats a fact most Maldivians in UK know! So dont try to hide the truth! Anni is as corrupt as Maumoon and I dont see the difference between them. We need a new person to lead the country!

  15. @Lucy Johnson on Fri, 27th Apr 2012 2:18 AM

    Thank you for the link. Its ironic how David Finn recalls dropping he Greek Tourism account due to a
    military takeover there...

  16. no human riot abuse in Nasheed's Regime, no unconstitutional actions in Nasheeds Regim???, so what people say is right, MDP or rather nasheed followers are blind.

  17. @OutragedMaldivianCitizen on Fri, 27th Apr 2012 12:54 AM

    I am outraged by your comments. You write this drivel, calling yourself a maldivian citizen?

    We are awake, my dear, we know who is loyal to us and who is not.

    Friends of Maldives made a huge difference to our people during out tsunami.

    Get your facts straight about who is taking our rights away in this country.

  18. It is rather ironic, banning El Al flights but hiring a firm with an Israeli off-shoot. Maldivian politics, just as deceitful as politics elsewhere, but just so much more amateurish and transparent. But still so many are suckered by it.

  19. @ aa
    Then why dont you prove it !! You can not because it is all bullshit. You perfectly represent the new regime.

  20. @ Aru
    "Don,t pretend to be an average citizen. We know who you are. If you did not help yourself to power by using guns and threats, you would not be targeted. Friends of Maldives are not interested in harming anyone outside the coup "

    If i did not help myself to power ? When did i come to power ?

    Seriously i am working in a Govt job in a Govt company. I don't even support this govt, or Waheed or even Nasheeds MDP govt. If i would support someone for Maldives presidency it would be someone intellectual like Barrack Obama, not power hungry politicians like Maumoon or Anni. I don't support any of the politicians in the Maldives.

    But my comments still stand, the work you guys are doing by supporting these Friends of Maldives organizations is bringing nothing but harm to our Maldivian tourist resort workers and their families. I have two cousin who works in W Resort Maldives (one in power generation, and one as a roomboy), their resort hasn't been listed in the ban. I met one of them recently and he's been talking about tourists asking about the travel bans and concerned about their safety. This stands to show that the calling for boycott of Maldivian resorts is affecting the whole of the Maldivian industry and tarnishing the image of the Maldives tourism industry as a whole.

    You would argue that it was the resort workers faults that their resort owners supported this coup or whatever, but thats crap and you know it. The resort workers work to earn money to support their families, and the actions of idiots like David Hardingham and the other morons in MDP who created this travel boycott websites are affecting their families when their families did nothing to support this change of regime.

    If you guys have a problem with the current president Waheed then by all means go and protest against him.

    But when you drag our tourism industry into it, then you are harming the families of the tourist workers who did nothing wrong, and most of whom aren't even interested in politics and such. Is that justifiable ?

    Because of campaigns such as this tourist arrivals drop to Maldives, and the whole economy of Maldives suffers. Is that justifiable ? Why don't you guys just leave our Tourism industry out of your squabble ?

  21. Shame on Ruder Finn for being on the payroll of a terrorist organization like Adhaalath.

  22. Hey,Mohamed British VSO also are "volunteers"",
    But they get paid much much more than their Maldivian salaried workers. Any time,any where I like to be a British "volunteer". Father Hardingham is a British"volunteer".

  23. @outragedmaldiviiancitizen
    How convenient for you to take bits out of society that you want and like but air brush out the human rights abuse and little things like democracy and freedoom. You care about tomoorow,s spreadsheet, not tomorrow,s society. FOM are highlighting the coup organizers only. They understand that tourism puts food on the table for MDP supporters too you idiot. Again, read the press releases and websites and check your facts. The only people who have harmed the image of tourism are the people that forced the coup that hit the world headlines and lit up the Internet from 7th feb. Look there for your image problem!

  24. @Khalifa

    Why have you referred to David Hardingham as Father Hardingham? Please enlighten us, because we would like to know where David Hardingham trained to be a priest and which church he preaches.

  25. @aru

    "They understand that tourism puts food on the table for MDP supporters too you idiot. The only people who have harmed the image of tourism are the people that forced the coup that hit the world headlines and lit up the Internet from 7th feb"

    The people who have harmed the Maldivian tourism industry and are continuing to harm the Maldivian tourism industry are you and one-sided people like yourself acting oblivious to the damage you are causing to the Maldives tourism industry.

    Figures published by the tourism ministry websit( in 2012, show continued decreasing number of tourists arriving to the Maldives compared to last year (down 5.3% since last year).

    Yet, you will never admit that calling for a boycott of your so-called selective resorts will and is harming the ENTIRE image of the Maldivian tourism industry, and that is indeed harming ALL the tourist resorts in Maldives. It is so convenient of you to place the blame on the coup organisors or whatever, but for ordinary citizens in the Maldives whose families are dependent on the tourism industry what do you think they value most, your stupid boycott or the income they receive ?

    Suppose for example, if you were working in one of these resorts calling to be boycotted and earning 10-15,000 rf as monthly income and somebody asked you not to work in that resort because theres a boycott list out, would you leave your job and go out on the street ? No you wouldnt, because you would value the income you earn because that it what feeds your family. Yet, you would feel no remorse in calling other people to boycott other resorts, so long as it does not affect you. People like you expect others to suffer for your goals and objectives. You dont give a damn about our nation, and the nations people, our economy which is dependent on this tourism industry, and the thousands of families dependent on the revenue received to this industry.

    A lot of tourists in the Maldives are brought here by tour operators, and according to you you are asking them to say "hey, there ae 24 resorts in the Maldives who are run by people who have committed human rights abuses and toppled the MDP govt, dont come to those resorts, come to other resorts. But the average tourist who is browsing thru available destinations will only see and hear boycott, MALDIVIAN RESORTS BOYCOTT. Your actions may have divine objectives according to you, but the outcomes are much more serious than that.

    If you cannot differentiate between cause and effect, and cannot limit your harm to those that inflicted you harm then is that not human rights abuses infliction ?

    If you have a problem with our current president then by all means, go and protest against him, and all those who you think are associated with him. Call for his resignation. But stop dragging our tourism industry into your tirade for your obnoxious and self-righteous ambitions. Stop calling for boycotts into our tourism industry and resorts. Think about the MDP resort workers and their families who have no association with this coup who you are harming by calling for boycott of Maldivian resorts.


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