PRs, Media Help Assad Efforts to Improve Image

Brown Lloyd James was paid $5,000 per month to help the wife of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, Asma, get a profile in Vogue magazine (left) that talked up her fashion sense and international lifestyle. The article has since been almost entirely removed from the Web as though it were never written. EIC Anna Wintour has said in a statement that there were hopes Syria’s regime would be an open one but now they see that’s not so.

“The escalating atrocities in Syria are unconscionable and we deplore the actions of the Assad regime in the strongest possible terms,” the statement says.

Bell Pottinger offered advice about how Asma could improve her image from a comms office in Damascus, though the firm didn’t set up any interviews for her. The firm didn’t place any interviews directly.

Then last week we learned that Barbara Walters, after interviewing Bashar al-Assad, tried to help one of his press people, Shererzad Jaafari, a former Brown Lloyd James intern, get into Columbia. She has since apologized for her actions.

Al-Assad, in his brutal attempts to put down the opposition in his country, is responsible for the deaths of thousands of his own people. And in an effort to hide the truth, the government, which has been very open to positive press about how posh they are, has targeted or shut out journalists and others.

We’ve written previously about Qorvis’ work with the government of Bahrain and former Libyan dictator Moammar Khadafy’s attempts to find a PR firm. At the time the latter news broke, the PRSA reiterated the “ethical quagmire” that working with oppressive governments poses, not to mention the damage to the overall business and PR as a profession.

The public relations field should be selective about who it works with and the sort of work it undertakes. By helping the al-Assad regime, these PRs and media outlets have facilitated it. Today, people are suffering and there are threats of all-out civil war in Syria (if it isn’t already happening). Beyond all else, as a human, one should reject any offers or inquiries from governments that would act so horrifically to its own people or those of other nations.

[image: Asma al-Assad in Vogue magazine. Via]

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