Shadow minister cites human rights abuses as he slams GCS partnership with Dubai

A deal struck by the Government Communication Service with Dubai has been condemned as 'shameful' by Jon Trickett, shadow minister for the Cabinet Office, due to the UAE regime's human rights record.

Mona Al Marri, director general of the Government of Dubai Media Office, Alistair Burt MP, Minister of State for the Middle East sign the MoU (pic credit:Government of Dubai)
Mona Al Marri, director general of the Government of Dubai Media Office, Alistair Burt MP, Minister of State for the Middle East sign the MoU (pic credit:Government of Dubai)

A memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed by Mona Al Marri, director general of the Government of Dubai Media Office, and Alistair Burt, Middle East minister, representing GCS, earlier this summer.

It is based on sharing best practice and expertise in government comms, as well as looking at evaluation methods and techniques, and the organisation and development of comms teams.

A statement by the United Arab Emirates’ ministry of foreign affairs and international co-operation said: "The agreement will address several areas such as exchange of people, professional practices, ideas and campaign learning to improve the perception of public services among the general public."

It added: "In addition to researching, writing and publishing joint guides on media practice, behavioural change and digital engagement, the MoU will also review the impact of technology and how it can be harnessed for public good through government communication."

Commenting on the agreement, which was signed in May, Burt said: "Government communication is a fundamental component of good governance, and I’m pleased that the UK & UAE are working together on this."

But Trickett told PRWeek: "The Government has no business making public servants provide communications advice to a regime that doesn’t allow a free press or free elections, and regularly imprisons people for expressing opposition to the way their country is run."

He added: "It defies belief that a British Minister of State can talk about 'good governance' and the sharing of best practice in this context, and this deal brings shame on our fantastic civil service, many of whom are no doubt as shocked as I am."

The UAE has mounted an "assault on freedom of expression and association since 2011", according to Human Rights Watch.

In its 2018 report on UAE, the campaigning group said: "UAE residents who have spoken about human rights issues are at serious risk of arbitrary detention, imprisonment, and torture. Many are serving long prison terms or have left the country under pressure."

Dubai is the latest in a series of regimes that GCS has been working with since it started working for foreign governments.

Georgia, Jordan, Montenegro, Tunisia, and Ukraine are among those to have been helped by the GCS to date – typically by building their capability in planning, digital, campaigns and crisis communications.

A government spokesperson said: "The UK government works closely with all our strategic allies across the globe including the United Arab Emirates. The MOU is to improve the capability and transparency of the government of Dubai's communications service for the benefit of all its citizens."


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