Agency targeted in protest at Gaddafi promotion links

Media scrutiny grows over UK agencies' work in representing foreign dictatorships.

An agency with links to the Gaddafi regime is the latest to be targeted by protesters, as scrutiny over the PR industry's dealings with foreign dictatorships intensifies.

International strategic comms agency Brown Lloyd James was hired in 2009 to promote Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi as 'a fascinating world figure', but now faces being picketed by protest group The Really Ethical PR Agency. This is a protest group led by activist Rupert Read, who also heads the school of philosophy at the University of East Anglia.

PRWeek has also learned a number of UK agencies were contacted by representatives of the Libyan regime in the early stages of the recent uprising.

Industry sources suggested Libyan officials had recently been exploring hiring media representation out of London, but that this came to nothing.

Brown Lloyd James partner Sir Nicholas Lloyd said that the agency had not done any work for the Gaddafi regime in London, although the firm's New York office worked for Colonel Gaddafi around his 2009 UN visit and has worked for his son Saif.

He said: 'At the time, Libya was recognised by British and American governments. They all did business with Gaddafi.'

But Read told PRWeek: 'Now the mask has been ripped off, it's time to remember the disgraceful work being done to improve the image of something which is appalling.'

Read's group appeared outside Bell Pottinger's High Holborn offices in London on 25 February to protest about its contract with Bahrain.

Subsequent media coverage in the Evening Standard, Radio 4's Today programme and Channel 4's Ten O'Clock Live has brought further attention to UK agencies' work for foreign dictatorships. Last week, Bell Pottinger chairman Lord Bell stated: 'There is a fad for attacking PR companies.'

Editor in chief's opinion, page 14 TIME LINE

Egypt In 2010, Egypt appointed Hill &Knowlton to help generate international investment.

Bahrain In 2009, Bell Pottinger won a brief from the Economic Development Board of Bahrain to handle its global foreign direct investment media relations.

Saudi Arabia Morris International Associates has managed UK media relations for the Saudi government.

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