Saudi Arabia has hired the UK-based Independent media corporation to launch a slew of news websites in Persian and other languages.
Under the deal, the British outfit would create up to four websites for the Saudi Research and Marketing Group (SRMG), which is tied to the Saudi royal family and often promotes the regime’s agenda.
Despite ownership by the SRMG, the news outlets — Independent Arabia, Independent Urdu, Independent Turkish, and Independent Persian — would be owned and operated by SRMG and would follow the editorial standards of The Independent.
“Four new websites will offer the highest-quality, free-thinking, independent news, insight and analysis on global affairs and local events,” the daily said in a statement.
“These will be published in Arabic, Urdu, Turkish and Persian. Each site will feature direct translations of articles from independent.co.uk alongside content from teams of SRMG journalists based in London, Islamabad, Istanbul, and New York,” the statement added.
This is not the first time the kingdom is approaching British media outlets to expand its propaganda machine.
The SRMG struck a similar agreement with Bloomberg last year to launch an Arabic outlet.
The push to promote the Wahabi-inspired Saudi ideology became more apparent last year, when Saudi investor Sultan Abuljadayel bought about a third of The Independent‘s shares.
The move sparked concerns about the independence of the website, which is owned by British-Russian billionaire Evgeny Lebedev.
Lebedev, the son of a former KGB spy, tried to play down the concerns by calling Abuljadayel a “minority shareholder” and promised that his money would not influence the company’s direction down the road.
A Saudi tycoon reportedly acquires up to 50 percent of shares in the British media organization, the Independent.
However, Lebedev will have a harder time explaining the new decision since the SMRG is clearly tied to Saudi authorities.
The firm had been chaired by Prince Bader bin Abdallah bin Mohammad bin Farhan, a close confidant of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman who is currently serving as the kingdom’s minister of culture.
The prince made the headlines earlier this year when he bought a Da Vinci painting for $450 million, reportedly on behalf of none other than bin Salman.
The SRMG already owns several major Arabic news outlets, including Asharq Al-Awsat and Arab News, which promote the Saudi position on regional issues.
Saudi Arabia has been linked with various anti-Iranian groups and is widely believed to have provided them with financial and logistic support to fuel sectarianism in the Islamic Republic.
The kingdom has openly supported the People’s Mujahedin of Iran (MKO) terror group, which has killed thousands of Iranians since 1979.