Following the killing of seven protesters in a police crackdown on the anti-regime campaign in Bahrain, a small group of protesters appeared outside Bell Pottinger’s High Holborn offices in London this morning to draw attention to the work the agency does for the country.
Today’s protesters, who held placards with slogans such as ‘You can’t spin the unspinnable’, caused the main doors of Bell Pottinger’s offices to be closed and employees had to enter by a rear entrance.
But Bell Pottinger chairman Lord Bell said that he felt under no pressure to resign the account following the seven killings.
Bell Pottinger has been retained by the Government of Bahrain for two years. In the past week, the agency has taken on extra responsibility and is handling media centre enquiries about the protests.
Lord Bell commented: 'We work for the Economic Development board. Whatever happens, the economy has got to grow. We're nothing to do with the constitution, we're nothing to do with Sunnis and Shiites.'
The FT has reported that the UK Government has refuted a Bell Pottinger statement sent out on Wednesday night that said Lord Astor Hever, undersecretary at the ministry of defence, had praised the national dialogue launched by King Hamad.
Bell Pottinger’s statement read: ‘The UK backs all initiatives taken by the kingdom’s leadership to safeguard the country from extremism and internal division, promote national unity and protect the legitimate ruling system advocated by the Bahraini people.’
But a British official on Thursday said that was an inaccurate representation of the conversation, adding that the UK was seeking a clarification from the crown prince’s office.
Lord Bell denied any suggestion that the agency was at fault. He said: 'We don't create the messages. We don't create the policies. We communicate them. It's like attacking Downing Street press office for the policies.'
This morning protesters Rupert Read and Phil Hutchinson – dubbing themselves ‘The Really Ethical PR Agency’ - handed out leaflets urging Bell Pottinger to ‘drop its business relationship with the murderous Bahraini regime’.
Read said: ‘We’re ashamed that it’s the UK that dictators turn to, to represent them. We hope Bell Pottinger is going to think about this and respond positively.’
Read added that further protests would take place if Bell Pottinger did not stop working for Bahrain.