The leader of the Green Party Caroline Lucas has strongly criticised some of Britain’s leading newspapers for running pro-Saudi Arabia adverts while the country’s Crown Prince makes a controversial visit to the UK as part of major PR offensive.
The Brighton Pavilion MP slammed the Guardian for hosting an advert which claimed that Prince Mohammed bin Salman is “empowering Saudi Arabian women”.
The advertisement appeared next to an article by Labour MP Emily Thornberry criticising the government for “rolling out the red carpet” for the ruler.
“Incredibly disappointing from @guardian,” Lucas wrote on Twitter, next to a screenshot of the ad, calling on websites running the adverts to “stop immediately”.
“This man has been in charge of a military operation labelled as a war crime,” she said.
The 32-year-old prince is a contentious figure, in part due to Saudi Arabia’s role in the current war in Yemen, with air strikes carried out by a Saudi-led multinational coalition killing thousands of Yemeni civilians.
Nearly 10,000 people have been killed and 52,800 injured since March 2015, the UN says. According to the UN Human Rights Council, civilians have repeatedly been the victims of “unrelenting violations of international humanitarian law”.
In a statement to HuffPost UK, Lucas said: “It really is shocking to see these adverts pop up on news sites like the Guardian. They are promoting a man whose country has caused devastation in Yemen, and been accused of committing war crimes.
“For newspapers and advertising sites to allow his face to be plastered all over the place is truly shameful - they shouldn’t be facilitating his attempted rebrand.”
A spokesperson from the Guardian said the acceptance of advertising and sponsorship “in no way affects our editorial position”.
“We are free to, and often do, challenge the activities of companies and organisations that are also our advertisers and sponsors,” they said.
But the Guardian was not the only paper to feature the advertisements. The Financial Times ran three promotions for the Crown Prince in today’s edition of the paper - two half-page and one full-page - while the Times also printed a half page promotion.
The criticism comes during a major row over bin Salman’s three-day visit to the UK, which experts have called a state visit “in all but name”.
Not only has the Crown Prince had lunch with the Queen, but he will also dine with the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Cambridge. He’ll also visit the Prime Minister’s country home and attend a meeting with Cabinet ministers.
The trip has sparked protests outside of Downing Street, with demonstrators slamming Saudi Arabia’s “unwillingness to support peace negotiations” in Yemen’s bloody civil war.
The campaign group Avaaz, which organised one of the protests, said: “The people of Yemen have faced daily bombing, starvation, and a cholera outbreak for three years, due to Saudi Arabia’s failed military campaign and unwillingness to support peace negotiations.”
“When Theresa May meets the architect of this horror show, she must stress to Mohammed bin Salman that the UK can no longer provide Saudi Arabia with the political cover and billions in arms sales to continue ripping Yemen apart.”
Meanwhile adverts promoting bin Salman’s attempts to modernise Saudi Arabia have been spotted around London.
A spokesperson for the PM said that Theresa May will raise Britain’s “deep concerns at the humanitarian situation” in Yemen during talks with the Prince.
″She will also reiterate how seriously we take allegations of violations against international humanitarian law and emphasise the need to ensure that these are investigated swiftly and thoroughly,” the spokesperson said.