Prince Mohammad bin Salman of Saudi Arabia is in town, and even the supposedly liberal Guardian Newspaper is in on the welcome. Not only have The Guardian accepted Saudi money in return for printing three huge propaganda adverts for the Saudi regime in today’s printed edition, they have disgustingly decided to print all 3 pro-Saudi ads just before a full-page ad calling on the government to suspend arms sales to the Gulf state over Saudi’s involvement in the horrific war in Yemen. The Guardian has chosen to play both sides, and it is utterly shameful.

The Deputy Crown Prince and Minister of Defence of Saudi Arabia – a country which is accused of committing ‘serious violations of international law’ in Yemen – is in Britain for talks with Theresa May. And despite her assurances during PMQs today, it’s extremely unlikely that May will press the issue of their numerous alleged human rights abuses too fiercely with the Saudi leader.

The Guardian however, is not afraid to speak its mind. In today’s edition, Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry goes on the attack, calling Britain’s ‘red carpet’ for bin Salman ‘shameless’.

Thornberry says of the visit:

Most pertinently, it is about the huge increase in arms sold by Britain to Saudi Arabia since the start of the war in Yemen – a trade so shameful that the government now actively encourages applications for “open export licences” by UK arms firms, precisely to hide what weaponry Riyadh is receiving, and its true value. It’s clear the government doesn’t care a jot about human rights or breaches of the Geneva convention if there is a chance instead to boost its balance sheet.

However, her message is completely undermined by the Guardian’s incredibly ill-judged choice of advertising in today’s paper: three consecutive half-page, full-colour, propaganda adverts from the Saudi regime, celebrating bin Salman’s visit.

And careful to provide a balanced view, the Guardian also has an advert from Save the Children, asking people to sign a petition against arms sales to Saudi Arabia due to their alleged human rights abuses in Yemen.

According to the adverts, bin Salman is ‘bringing change to Saudi Arabia’ and ’empowering Saudi Arabian women’. The latter advert shows a woman at the wheel of a car, a reference to a recent decision to allow women to drive – a small enough concession in a country where women face ‘systemic discrimination in law and practice’ and are ‘inadequately protected against sexual and other violence’.

Campaign Against Arms Trade told Evolve Politics:

The Crown Prince is the face of one of the most repressive dictatorships in the world, It is one that has committed atrocities against its own citizens for decades and has inflicted a humanitarian catastrophe on the people of Yemen. It’s time for Theresa May to stop putting arms sales ahead of human rights.

Green Party MP Caroline Lucas was also quick to weigh in on the side of human rights:

The facts are these: Saudi Arabia is a systemic violator of human rights. Since it launched its war on Yemen in 2015, more than 5,000 children have been killed or injured. Over a million people are suffering from cholera or acute diarrhoea and seven million people are at risk of famine. Many of the bombs dropped, and the warplanes used to drop them, have been British. .

The Guardian has run a series of articles about Saudi’s war on Yemen. In December 2017, journalist Owen Jones condemned the government’s ‘sordid support’ for Saudi’s war on the people of Yemen, saying:

The Tory government has offered a derisory £50m extra in aid for food and fuel supplies: like setting fire to a neighbour’s house, then slipping a tenner through the charred letterbox.

And – in perhaps the ultimate irony – the Guardian ran an editorial on 1 February about bin Salman’s visit, saying that:

Britain should not trade away its principles and values

If only the Guardian was following its own advice rather than prioritising advertising income over human rights.

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