On The Listening Post this week: The jailing of women's rights activists in Saudi Arabia makes the story of reform in the kingdom harder to tell. Plus, the politics of government ad money in Mexico.

Image vs reality: Spinning the Saudi reform story

Ever since last year's palace coup in Saudi Arabia left Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (also referred to as MBS) in control of every important arm of the state, his promise of reforms, an anti-graft campaign, the opening of cinemas, and the decision to finally lift a ban on female drivers, has had many in the international media putting a new face on the kingdom.

But the recent jailing of women's rights activists and their labelling as traitors with links to foreign powers feels like the same old Saudi Arabia.

So what's behind the crackdown on female activists and what does it mean for Saudi Arabia's image?

We look at the role of the PR firms, mostly in the US, to whom the Saudi government pays millions of dollars to burnish its image through the news media to global policymakers and the public.

Contributors:
Hana al-Khamri, writer, Yemeni Salon
Josh Wood, journalist
Jamal Khashoggi, Saudi writer
Kareem Chehayeb, Saudi Arabia researcher, Amnesty International

On our radar

Richard Gizbert speaks to producer Johanna Hoes about the intensifying pressure on journalists in Egypt and the US media's approach to mass shootings.

Journalism and the politics of government advertising in Mexico

Since coming to power in 2012, Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto's administration has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on government advertising.

He's thrown more pesos the media's way than any other president in the country's history. That has helped keep some media outlets afloat, but the ad revenues can also cost news media their editorial independence.

The Listening Post's Marcela Pizarro reports on the politics of government advertising, the news outlets that have grown addicted to it, and the effect that has had on the fourth estate in Mexico.

Contributors:
Daniel Moreno, director, Animal Politico
Sebastian Barragan, reporter, Aristegui Noticias
Grisel Salazar, media scholar, CIDE
Justine Dupuy, Fundar

Source: Al Jazeera News