Saturday 20 August 2011

FBC contract with Taib proves 'illegal PR campaign'

Whistleblower website Sarawak Report has revealed the contents of the contract between international public relations firm FBC Media and Taib Mahmud for the campaign to whitewash the chief minister's image abroad.

Alan Friedman FBCThe document, it says, shows how the company's chairman and founder Alan Friedman, “who was clearly masterminding the multi-million dollar PR deal, also doubled up as the executive editor of the company's flagship 'World Business' programme, produced weekly for CNBC”.

“The total cost for FBC's 'Global Strategic Communications Proposal' came to US$5 million (RM15 million) in the first year alone in a campaign designed to last at least 3 years,” said Sarawak Report.

The website produced in full Friedman's cover letter for the contract dated Jan 20 with an outline of the strategy for the first year that encompasses the April state election.

NONE“I am grateful for the generous amount of time you devoted to our meeting and for the talk we had about how we can assist you promote your important achievements in bringing Sarawak steadily toward your goal of fully developed nation status, and to assist in countering false and negative perceptions that have been spread at home and abroad.” wrote Friedman to Taib.

The letter describes the campaign, “which would aim to illustrate to the most prestig(ious) international television, online, and print media platforms in a convincing and editorially credible manner your own leadership, the way you have transformed Sarawak, the benefits for the people of Sarawak, and your commitment to further growth, progress and sustainable development”.

FBC contract with Taib.jpgFriedman goes on to outline the use of TV reports and interviews with the CM and press tours and online media with “special blogging” to “provide a blanket of positive messaging about you and Sarawak to the Western media”.

“We would during the same period work between February and April to bounce back into the local press in Sarawak this international recognition, this bringing positive results as well for the people of Sarawak to see.

From May (after the state election) Friedman promises to “work both on the positive messages and to counter negative perceptions and falsehoods that have been spread unfairly about environmental matters ranging from the Bakun Dam to timber, mining and palm oil. We would also counter false allegations about corruption.”

What deforestation?

To illustrate, Sarawak Report describes some of the programmes that FBC had produced for its first RM15 million, such as 'Deforestation in Sarawak' for World Business that shows Taib and employees and “political allies” painting a rosy picture of the state's forests, claiming that 80 percent of of which has remained untouched.

NONEIn a feature on the Penan, a “happy Penan tribesman” talked about how he had benefited from “progress” brought by the Sarawak government.

“However, there was no mention of the years of desperate blockades which have been mounted by his own people against Taib's corrupt logging, or of the protests by numerous other native groups, who have been shoved out of their lands to make way for logging, dams and oil palm with no compensation or opportunity to profit,” said the website.

The contract also entails image spinning at world forums such as the World Economic Forum (WEF) that meets annually in Davos, Switzerland.

NONESarawak Report draws a link between the WEF's 'media leader' John Defterios, who is anchor at CNN, one of the target media in FBC's proposal, and who as at July is also FBC's president.

“Defterios has long been president of FBC Media and is a director and Shareholder of the parent company FBC Group. He also acted as a Managing Editor of the World Business programme for CNBC, according to a recent version of the company's website,” says Sarawak Report.

The website also claims they have “established clear links” between FBC Media and a US blogger Josh Trevino, known for his attacks on opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim and Sarawak Report.

'Money better spent on Malaysians'

Meanwhile the Selangor Menteri Besar's office expressed disbelief that RM60 million in taxpayers' money has been spent on FBC for spinning a positive image for the BN government abroad.

NONE“We are shocked that taxpayers' money has been spent in large sums to improve the image of the prime minister and the government - an image that has been marred by the way the government handled the Bersih 2.0 rally on July 9, and by allegations of corruption and administrative incompetency that at present has reached the lowest low,” said Faekah Husin (left), the Selangor MB's political secretary.

“We wonder why the federal government requires the services of a company that specialises in distorting the facts and truths for despotic regimes and/or rogue nations like Israel, Kazahkstan and Nigeria,” she said in a statement today.

“Perhaps Malaysians would enjoy better governance if the tens or hundreds of millions spent on foreign public relations companies is instead spent to clean up the electoral system, introduce more effective anti-corruption efforts, improve the lives of the less privileged communities and investing in public infrastructure development.”

Faekah said federal ministers were better off heeding the government's critics before making “baseless allegations” at the Selangor government that so far has proven to be unfounded and “malicious”.

Instead, she said, BN leaders should find a way to work together with the state government for the betterment of the state, free from politicking.

“(The Pakatan government) pledges to continue our development efforts that are people-oriented, without the need to pay excessive amounts for services of dubious public relations firms.”

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