A Dubai-based company hired a public relations executive to produce films defaming Qatar, a report by The Bureau of Investigative Journalism said.
Charles Andreae, owner of Andreae and Associates, was paid $500,000 by UAE-based Lapis Communications to produce a six-part film linking Qatar with “global terrorism”, the Bureau said on Monday.
The documentary, entitled “Qatar: A Dangerous Alliance” and which the London-based website describes as “slickly produced”, features speakers from a host of conservative organisations discussing the country’s alleged role in supporting “extremist groups”.
According to the bureau, copies of the video were distributed at an event hosted by the Hudson Institute, an American think-tank, in October 2017.
US President Donald Trump’s former Chief Strategist Steven Bannon was among the keynote speakers at that event. Also present were former Defence Secretary Leon Panetta and General David Petraeus, the former CIA director.
Andreae’s previous roles include overseeing a $500m contract with the Pentagon during the Iraq war while working for his former employer, Bell Pottinger, a British public relations firm.
“The Iraq programme included news reports made to look like they were produced by Arab media channels and fake al-Qaeda videos used to track the viewers. The Bell Pottinger ‘psyops’ team reported to General Petraeus, who led American forces in Iraq,” the report said.
Bell Pottinger filed for bankruptcy in 2017 after being implicated in a campaign aimed at stirring racial tensions in South Africa.
The contract with Lapis, which dates back to 2017, only came to be known in a recently filed declaration to the US justice department.
US law requires that all US companies disclose lobbying and PR contracts with foreign clients.
A quartet of countries made up of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain have spent heavily on a PR campaign as part of an ongoing blockade on Qatar aimed at depicting the country as a destabilising actor in the region.
In March, a New York Times report said Special Counsel Robert Mueller would investigate an adviser close to Mohamed bin Zayed – the de facto ruler of the UAE – for attempts to buy political influence in the White House.