The Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC) has confirmed its appointment of New-York based public relations agency Ruder Finn, following speculation in the PR industry press last week.
Ruder Finn will provide international PR in a three-month contract PR Week speculated to be worth over US$150,000 per month.
According a statement from the MMPRC, the agency will “oversee the overall media coordination and achievement of PR related solution for destination Maldives, instil confidence in the tourism industry of the Maldives, gain understanding and public acknowledgement of the Maldives in the international community, ensure sustainable development of the tourism industry, and improve the image of the destination.”
President Dr Mohamed Waheed’s spokesperson, Abbas Adil Riza, told Minivan News last week that the appointed PR firm would only be responsible for promoting tourism, and would not be involved in politics or government.
Ruder Finn’s Senior Vice President and Ethics Officer, Emmanuel Tchividjian, told PR industry publication The Holmes Report that the company would “resign its lucrative new Maldives’ tourism brief if a national enquiry finds that the country’s new government took power illegally.”
Tchividjian claimed the company had “closely examined the complexity of the current political situation in the country”.
“Accusations of a coup have been dismissed by many international organisations and governments, including the United Kingdom government who has said that they do not recognise the transfer of power in the Maldives to be a coup,” he claimed.
“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.”
Ruder Finn’s resignation of an account under such circumstance is not without precedent.
The firm’s founder David Finn, cited on the website of the American Jewish Committee, a think tank and advocacy organisation “combating anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry” and “supporting Israel’s quest for peace and security”, recounts how “some years ago a professor at the Seminary helped us make the decision to resign the sizeable Greek tourism account after three colonels seized power and installed a military dictatorship. “
The company nonetheless has a reputation for representing controversial clients, including tobacco giant Phillip Morris and Israeli airline El Al, which MPs of the Maldives government coalition last week voted to ban from landing in the Maldives.
The PR firm was also embroiled in controversy over its distribution of the incendiary film ‘Fitna’, produced by Dutch anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders, at a conference organised by Ruder Finn in 2008 called ‘Facing Jihad’.
The MMPRC has also appointed several other agencies to target specific markets, including Rooster PR (UK), Belcanto Communications (Germany) and Travel Link Marketing (China).
The MMPRC said it was also in the process of appointing PR agencies in India, Russia and the Middle East.