Riyadh hires US media consultant for PR drive on 'changing life in Saudi Arabia'
Nicola Hewitt, a public relations executive who runs her own firm, is set to become the latest US media professional to join the kingdom’s effort to rebrand its global image.
According to the filing, Hewitt will work as a freelancer for Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Media and “will perform general public relations and media outreach services, including outreach to broadcast, print and social media about the changing way of life in Saudi Arabia,” CNBC reported.
The filing adds that the PR professional will work for the ministry via firm called Thiqah Business Services - a company owned wholly by the Saudi government, according to the CNBC report.
It also reveals that Hewitt worked for Riyadh’s media agency in 2020.
Hewitt’s hiring is the latest in Riyadh’s ongoing campaign to boost its public image, amid sustained scrutiny of the kingdom's human rights record, including its treatment of women and political dissidents.
The 2018 killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul drew international condemnation of Saudi Arabia and Crown Prince Mohammed's de-facto rule of the kingdom. Riyadh's involvement in Yemen's war has also drawn criticism from rights groups, pressuring Washington over its arms dealings with the Saudis.
Despite this, the kingdom has pushed ahead with trying to improve its public image, including through the hosting of international sports events, concerts and by relaxing laws relating to women's rights.
Human rights advocates remain skeptical, however, and have highlighted Saudi Arabia's continued detention of dissidents as evidence that the kingdom has not changed.