WikiLeaks Reveals Saudi Influence on Regional Media

WikiLeaks Reveals Saudi Influence on Regional MediaWikiLeaks Reveals Saudi Influence on Regional Media

A new cache of documents reportedly leaked from Saudi Arabia’s interior ministry appears to reveal the extent of the kingdom’s funding of regional media outlets. The documents also disclose information about Saudi Arabia’s external affairs and could prove embarrassing to the kingdom and its allies.

WikiLeaks, the transparency advocacy website responsible for publishing leaked documents from various world powers, said on Friday that the 61,000-plus documents published on Friday were the first of around half a million to be released over the coming weeks.

One document apparently sent from the Saudi interior ministry to the ministry of culture and media in 2010 approves payments to media outlets across the region.

Newspapers and sites in Jordan, Kuwait, the UAE, Lebanon and Mauritania reportedly received sums of up to $32,000 each per year, the Middle East Eye reported.

WikiLeaks accused Saudi Arabia of buying “reverse shares” in Arabic-language media outlets across the region in an attempt to “neutralize” negative press.

In one document, marked “Top Secret,” it is noted that “support directed towards any foreign media outlet must serve the policies of the kingdom and its interests.”

A separate pair of documents from November 2011 appears to show a row breaking out after an Egyptian satellite channel broadcast an interview with Saad al-Faqih, a Saudi dissident now living in London who heads an organization calling for the overthrow of the monarchy.

After ONTV, a satellite channel owned by Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris, hosted Faqih, the Saudi ambassador in Cairo apparently telephoned Sawiris to warn that such events “must not be repeated.”