SHAFAQNA -Â A flurry of diplomatic cables released last week suggest the government of Saudi Arabia has financed newspapers inside Canada, and perhapsÂ one of the country’s biggest Islamic NGOsÂ to the tune of nearly $150,000.
The documents, published by whistleblower group WikiLeaks, contain memos from the ministries of foreign affairs and culture, which discuss releasing funds to Canadian entities.
“Most world governments engage in PR campaigns to fend off criticism and build relations in influential places,”Â reads a WikiLeaks report accompanying the documents. “Saudi Arabia controls its image by monitoring media and buying loyalties from Australia to Canada and everywhere in between.”
One of the leaked documents â€” which the government in Riyadh adamantly claims are faked â€” reads that the Saudi government would be contributing $10,000 CAD (approx. $8,100 USD) “to meet the Ministry of Culture and Information’s participation in the following Canadian newspapers.”
The list includes four outlets.
El–Ressala, a bi-monthly Egyptian-Canadian newspaper;Â al–Muhajir, a newspaper “issued by the Ministry of Yemeni expatriates affairs”;Â el Dibloumasi, an Algerian “electronic political newsletter,” according to their Facebook page; andÂ al Akhbar, a weekly newspaper published in Montreal.
According to the cable, the first two on the list received $2,000 in Canadian currency, while the latter two received $3,000 apiece.
The documents aren’t dated, but appear to be from 2004. Other documents contained in the leak reveal that Riyadh’s funding of foreign media continued throughout the last decade.
For example, hefty cheques â€” phrased as “subscription fees” in the documents â€” were paid to various newspapers across the Middle East. One outlet received 9,750 Kuwait Dinar (approx. $32,000 USD). A paper in the United Arab Emirates was paid 40,000 AED (approx. $11,000 USD).
The kingdom’sÂ “subscription” to foreign media also includes 40,000 Australia dollars (approx. $31,000 USD) to outlets in that country.
While it’s not exactly clear what benefit that number of subscriptions would bring to Riyadh, the WikiLeaks release claims “these publications are then expected to return the favour by becoming an ‘asset’ in the Kingdom’s propaganda strategy.”