Journalists have established the authenticity of the first tranche of the top secret Saudi documents published by WikiLeaks, as Saudi Arabia has warned not to distribute them, spokesperson for the WikiLeaks told RT adding that ‘it’s just the beginning. We are seeing how the oil money is being used to increase influence of Saudi Arabia which is substantial of course – this is ally of the US and the UK. And since this spring it has been waging war in neighboring Yemen,” Icelandic investigative journalist and spokesperson for the WikiLeaks organization Kristinn Hrafnsson told RT.
On Friday, the whistleblowing website released the first tranche of nearly 70,000 secret government files, providing an insight into the kingdom’s interior and foreign policies. Hrafnsson said that this is“only one tenth of the documents that we have which, will be released in the coming weeks. WikiLeaks said that it plans to publish about half a million documents, which include communiqués from the Saudi Foreign Ministry, as well as ‘top secret’ reports from the kingdom’s intelligence agency and Ministry of Interior.
“Let me remind you that this is just a beginning,” he said adding that the documents are in Arabic “so it will take longer for media to work on the material and develop stories.” On Saturday, in response to the publications Riyadh has urged its citizens not to distribute “documents that might be faked.” However, the statement made by the Foreign Ministry on its Twitter account did not deny the documents’ authenticity.
“It’s interesting that they suggest that they are fabricated documents … without mentioning a single one. On the other hand of course journalists have already established the authenticity of many of the documents they have been working on…” Hrafnsson said.
‘Buying Silence’: WikiLeaks blows whistle on Riyadh’s control of Arab media
On Saturday, WikiLeaks published a report alleging Saudi Arabia’s “extensive efforts to monitor and co-opt Arab media.” The kingdom takes a systematic approach to maintaining the country’s positive image on the international stage, the site claimed adding that Riyadh controls it by monitoring media and “buying loyalties from Australia to Canada and everywhere in between.” The ‘Saudi Cables’ revealed the “extensive efforts to monitor and co-opt Arab media, making sure to correct any deviations in regional coverage of Saudi Arabia and Saudi-related matters.”
“Saudi Arabia’s strategy for co-opting Arab media takes two forms, corresponding to the “carrot and stick” approach, referred to in the documents as “neutralization” and “containment.” The approach is customized depending on the market and the media in question,” it said. As an example of the latter two approaches, the report presents the Saudi purchasing thousands of subscriptions in targeted publications, which become politically loyal to the state.
“A document listing the subscriptions that needed renewal by 1 January 2010 details a series of contributory sums meant for two dozen publications in Damascus, Abu Dhabi, Beirut, Kuwait, Amman and Nouakchott. The sums range from $500 to 9,750 Kuwaiti Dinars ($33,000).” The report said that the sum of the ‘bribe’ depends on how well the country’s state of affairs are.
“These range from small but vital sums of around $2000/year to developing country media outlets – a figure the Guinean News Agency “urgently needs” as “it would solve many problems that the agency is facing” – to millions of dollars, as in the case of Lebanese right-wing television station MTV.”
Among other issues, WikiLeaks said it has concerns with how Saudi Arabia influenced media during the “Arab Spring” in 2011. According to the leaked files Riyadh “gave financial support to influential media institutions in Tunisia,” the birthplace of the movement which resulted in several governments being overthrown.
Saudi Arabia, the world’s second largest oil producer and largest exporter, is a major player in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) that controls oil production and prices on the global market. The ultraconservative kingdom has also been widely criticized by the international community for its disreputable human rights record. Last Monday Saudi Arabia performed its 100th public execution of the year.