Qatar ‘spends $5 million on PR campaigns’ to polish country’s image

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Qatar is attempting to contain and counter the effects of the Arab boycott against it, a US report this week has found.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut ties with Doha in June, accusing it of supporting and sponsoring terrorism.

All the while, Qatar has been attempting to negotiate deals with US public relations and advertising firms, spending nearly $5 million on campaigns mediated through US social media since June. The country’s extensive spending on the propaganda aimed to win over hearts and minds, and encourage sympathy for Doha, the report said.

According to the Washington-based Center for Responsive Politics, Qatar has employed seven media firms to increase its propaganda over the last three months alone to counter the boycott’s repercussions.

Below is an exert from the report with information from the Center for Responsive Politics’ Foreign Lobby Watch database:

Two days after the boycott, Qatar turned to Washington: First, they hired Ashcroft Law Firm, cofounded by former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, and then a second law firm — McDermott, Will & Emory — three weeks later. In late August, Qatar hired a third D.C. law firm, Stonington Strategies, then a fourth, Nelson Mullins, in September.

Last summer, it also hired Avenue Strategies Global, former Trump campaign manager Corey Leandowski’s lobbying firm, according to Politico. Art Estopinan, recently hired as a partner at Avenue Strategies Global and one of the lobbyists for Qatar, was formerly Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s (R-Fla.) chief of staff. He also previously represented the Puerto Rico Private Sector Coalition.

Qatar has also turned to advertising firms, including the Washington, D.C.-based Audience Partners Worldwide.

Most recently, Qatar’s communications office hired the PR and lobbying firm BlueFront Strategies to create what would be the country’s most ambitious media campaign denouncing the isolation. The campaign was designed to target the 72nd Session of the United Nations General Assembly in September.

BlueFront’s services for Qatar from Sept. 12 to Oct. 1 overlapped with the UN’s meeting. In total, the firm’s compensation for the campaign was $100,000.

Since June, Qatar has spent around $4.7 million on new contracts for U.S. influence campaigns. Between 2012 and June 2017, the country spent around $6.5 million on new contracts.

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