Gaddafi paid millions to US firms to polish his global image

Muammar Gaddafi
Boston, Apr 7: Libya's strongman Muammar Gaddafi was spending over USD 3 million annually to mount a secret media campaign and PR effort to spruce up his global image as a statesman and a reformer, confidential documents show.

Gaddafi, now facing a rebellion from his own people, hired ''The Monitor Group'', a consulting firm here, to execute a public relations strategy that included paying think-tank analysts and former government officials to take a free trip to Libya for lectures, discussions and even personal meetings with Gaddafi starting in 2006.

Quoting a 2007 memo from Monitor to Gaddafi's intelligence chief, CNN reports that the campaign was to "enhance international understanding and appreciation of Libya. Emphasise the emergence of the new Libya. (and) introduce (Muammar Gaddafi) as a thinker and intellectual."

The price of the PR exercise was USD 3 million a year, plus expenses, for work that included consulting, briefings, analyses and a steady stream of high-profile visitors to Libya -- at least one a month.

The memos were posted online by the National Conference of the Libyan Opposition, the CNN reports.

Eamonn Kelly, senior partner at Monitor Group, is heading an internal investigation at the company. He said the visitors programme was only a small part of a wider campaign to help build civil society there.

The vast majority of the work, he says, was bringing leadership training and expertise to the country, aimed at "promoting reform, improving the economic prosperity of the country and the people, modernising the government and helping to heal the very broken civic society."

"We were not working for Gaddafi, we were working for Libya," Kelly said.

After one year's work, a 2007 memo from Monitor touted the results, including a dozen high-profile visitors, ranging from interviewer David Frost to eminent professors such as Francis Fukuyama, fellow at Stanford University.

Monitor also took credit for positive media coverage and also highlighted a half-dozen positive articles written by some of the participants they sponsored.

For example, Benjamin Barber wrote an op-ed for The Washington Post entitled, "Gaddafi's Libya: An Ally for America?" and Andrew Moravcsik wrote a piece for Newsweek called, "A Rogue Reforms." Although the firm had vowed to "provide operational support for publication of positive articles on Libya," there is no indication any of the pieces were written at Monitor's behest.

Instead, participants in the programme who were reached by CNN say they believed they were being paid for the lectures they gave and the coaching they offered.


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