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Posts Tagged ‘racepoint

BBC (nearly) runs film praising Rwanda’s dictator, “supported” by company linked to ruling party

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Update: Many thanks to Nick Wallis, who tells me that the film was pulled from the BBC schedules prior to being aired and never actually went out. Will update again if I can find out more…

Last year I blogged about the Rwandan government’s $50,000 deal with the US PR firm Racepoint, whose strategy includes promoting “Rwanda’s Visionary Leader… highlighting President Kagame and his visionary leadership”, while  “communicating the successes of Rwanda with key stakeholders in the political and financial elite communities”.

The PR firm…  outlines “a consolidated set of tactics to publicize both Rwanda and President Kagame“. This will initially involve “leveraging top print and broadcast outlets to communicate the Rwanda success story… and, in the process, validate it based on their credibility”, together with “a proactive campaign that leverages the web to seed stories favorable to Rwanda”.

Racepoint singles out  the Huffington Post as a particular online media target, together with “careful seeding across the blogosphere” to “initiate an offensive to control the organic search on Rwanda and set the agenda in print and broadcast”.

One of the key themes within the PR strategy’s “Education and inform program” would include:

The Rwandan Miracle: Healing of a Nation – We will highlight the rapid healing of the Rwandan nation, it will rely on visuals to drive the story home, Including inviting a handful of top-tier influencer media into the country to observe and Interview people in society.”

So I was very interested to hear about a new 45-minute film, reportedly due to air on May 12th and 13th on BBC World News, called “Rwanda-17 – Healing a Nation”.

The blurb from the film paints a heartwarming picture of the country’s under-17 football team, which it suggests “represents Rwanda’s breathtaking evolution and hopes for a better future, with good leadership and unity at the heart of not only sporting success but also a nation’s efforts to achieve reconciliation and prosperity.”

“What is it about Rwanda? What it is it that you’ve got *so* right?” asks the interviewer in the 2-minute trailer. His respondent tells him that “every ship” needs to have “a good captain”.

“Our team today, to play well, *they* a good captain, they need a good coach. They need somebody who has a vision. This is what we have in Rwanda.”

The shot then cuts to an interview with Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame: “As the captain of this ship, what would you say you need to deliver to the people?”, his friendly interviewer asks. “We want to leave poverty behind us. We want to leave any kind of conflict behind us”, Kagame tells him.

This will doubtless come as good news to the UK-based dissidents who Rwanda’s government tried to murder last year… And the exiled opposition leader who has twice avoided assassination in South Africa, though it’s sadly too late for the opposition politician found beheaded in Rwanda in 2010.

There is a longer version of the trailer here, where it is stated that the film was “supported by Crystal Ventures”.

According to a DFID-funded research paper on Rwanda’s development, Kagame’s ruling party “funds itself by a combination of member contributions and the dividends paid by a private company which it fully owns… formerly known as Tri-Star Investments S.A.R.L. and now registered as Crystal Ventures Ltd.”

The Crystal Ventures website, meanwhile, states that:

“The company is wholly owned by Rwandan business people who pooled resources together to meet challenges of economic recovery and take advantage of growth opportunities in a virgin environment.”

Opposition activists, however, have claimed that the company is effectively controlled by the Rwandan President.

Google reveals lots more speculation – but far less concrete detail – about Crystal Ventures and its background. I’d be grateful for any input from readers on good sources to help unravel this…

Written by Richard Wilson

May 11, 2012 at 4:38 pm

Racepoint on Gaddafi: “The Leader is an intellectual and philosopher”

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Racepoint Group were retained to promote Gaddafi as “an intellectual and philosopher”

More on the PR firm Racepoint Group from the US government’s public register of “Foreign Agents”.

Today’s find is from that not-so-long-ago moment when publicly associating with Libya’s Colonel Gaddafi was less toxic than today – and it makes an interesting compare-and-contrast with yesterday’s entry.

In 2007 Racepoint were assigned by a company named Monitor Group – whose activities on behalf of the Gadaffi regime are somewhat better known – to promote Gaddafi’s “democratic” government in the run-up to the 30th anniversary of his seizing power.

According to the project proposal, which was only submitted to the Department of Justice last month, Racepoint planned to use this anniversary “to drive global awareness and recognition for Libya’s accomplishments with the People’s Authority of Libya and related democratic initiatives.”

Racepoint would “leverage” a planned public debate between Gaddafi (“hereafter The ‘Leader'”), British sociologist Anthony Giddens, and political theorist Benjamin Barber “to draw world attention to several important positioning points”. Key among these were that “Libya is an Arab Muslim country engaging in its own form of democracy”, “The Leader is an intellectual and philosopher”, “The Jamahiriya system is a radical social experiment based on an alternative direct democracy governance model…”, and “The importance of the 30th Anniversary of the Declaration of the People’s Authority as a democratic milestone”.

“Effective execution” would “work to influence perceptions of Libya and the Leader with international media, and ultimately, the international community; enhance the international image and prestige of the Leader by establishing his willingness to engage in serious intellectual debate before a world audience; and broaden universal understanding of governmental and economic reforms being undertaken in Libya.”

The company would also work to secure a “media partner” for the event, with the BBC “the preferred partner for a number of reasons: the ongoing relationship with Sir David Frost, its global prestige, audience and reach, and its online, radio and television properties”.

“Preferred” print media would be the International Herald Tribune, New York Times, Guardian, Reuters and the Economist.

In the weeks before the debate, Racepoint would engage in “strategic ‘leaking’ of certain debate topics” and arrange “Briefings by representatives of the Leader or Mr. Giddens or Barber with a small handful of global political bloggers”.

The “project fee” for this 60-day campaign would be $75,000 – plus expenses.

There’s not a huge amount of other information publicly available about Racepoint’s work for Gaddafi, but a quick Google search turned up this:

Groundbreaking Website Reveals Libya’s Commitment to Democracy

Following a first-of-its kind event in which Muammar al-Gaddafi engaged in a free-form debate on democracy, the World Center for Green Book Studies today launched a groundbreaking Website as part of Libya’s efforts to openly engage the international community on democracy and economic development in Libya. The Website address is:…

The two-hour debate focused on three distinct themes:

— Democracy in Libya – the Jamahiriya System: An exploration of the vision that led to the founding of the People’s Authority in Libya thirty years ago, Gaddafi’s aspirations for the Libyan people and the way that they engage with government.

— Globalization since the founding of the People’s Authority: A broad conversation about how the world has changed in the last thirty years – how people think and feel about the globalization of government, democracy, ideas, money, culture and politics, in an age of security threats and the implications of this change for Libya.

— What the next 30 years of the People’s Authority in Libya will bring: A discussion of the role of the Libyan state and democracy in a modern context, charting the practical progress of Libya and the increasingly important role that the civil and economic sectors will play in the country and the region.

Please visit for more information.

CONTACT: Racepoint Group George Snell 781-487-4608

Reuters, meanwhile, tells the story slightly differently:

Gaddafi debate shows limits to change in Libya

Muammar Gaddafi, ever the political showman, has chosen the talk show as a new way of sending a message to the West: Economic reform will help Libya, but political change is not needed.

Sitting around a table in front of the international media, he said in an unprecedented debate with two Western thinkers and a celebrated British journalist that the ballot box was not for his oil-exporting nation…

The tape of Friday’s debate will be distributed to international television channels and may be placed on a Libyan government Web site, said George Snell, an official of a U.S. public relations firm involved in organizing Friday’s event…

“Direct people’s democracy in coming years will be a model for other countries,” the leader told U.S. political scientist Benjamin Barber and sociologist Anthony Giddens in a discussion moderated by journalist David Frost…

If the debate is broadcast in Libya, the images of give and take of the discussion could strike a blow for free expression in a country with a state-controlled media.

Gaddafi was challenged and sometimes contradicted by the Western experts on his opposition to the ballot box.

“I have a basic source of disagreement with Mr. Gaddafi,” sociologist Giddens told the gathering, using language never publicly heard in Libya.

But Saturday’s Libyan newspapers splashed reports of a meeting with political associates Gaddafi held later on Friday in which he denounced Western domination of the world and urged Libyans to train militarily to prepare to fight off invaders.

There was no word of the debate.

Written by Richard Wilson

September 5, 2011 at 7:51 pm