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28 Nov 2015

Chris Green, Independent [UK]

WPP accused of "whitewashing" Egypt's human rights record

"World's largest advertising company accused of 'whitewashing' Egypt's human rights record", 20 November 2015

The world’s largest advertising company has been accused of “whitewashing” Egypt’s record on human rights after describing how it organised a major economics conference which distracted the global media from reporting “negative” news about the country. WPP, the UK-based multinational communications firm founded by Sir Martin Sorrell, played a key role in the Egypt Economic Development Conference (EEDC), which was attended by 30 heads of state and featured addresses from high profile speakers including Tony Blair. According to a “case study” document published on WPP’s website, the conference resulted in the successful “rebranding” of Egypt and built confidence in the regime of Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, who rose to power following the army’s overthrow of Mohammed Morsi in 2013. Almost 600 people have been sentenced to death in Egypt since the beginning of last year, with the vast majority of cases involving those who attended pro-democracy protests. The country has also seen a disturbing rise in the number of executions and use of mass trials under the al-Sisi regime, according to research by the human rights group Reprieve...

A spokesman for WPP said: “The aim of the conference was to promote Egypt’s economic development by attracting foreign investment, an essential ingredient for the country’s wider development and stability... It is inevitable in the run-up to a major international economic conference that there will be greater media focus on economic issues.”