Two weeks ago the Guardian took down a Comment is Free piece entitled ‘Bahrain has failed to grasp reform, so why is the Grand Prix going ahead? According to Matthew Cassel, it was taken down at the request of British PR Firm Dragon Associates, who claimed that it contained ‘considerable inaccuracies‘. The piece, which you can still read here, stated that abuses had taken place on the premises of the Bahrain International Circuit. The article implicates the head of the security at the BIC, which would explain why co-author John Lubbock tweeted
They’re contesting that it was the head of security who carried out the abuse, not that it happened. Typical denial of responsibility.
It would therefore seem that the article was potentially libellous, despite the fact that head of security’s name is mentioned in this witness testinomy on the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights website. Clearly Dragon Associates were able to convince the Guardian that the testimony might not be credible enough to survive a law suit.
So who are Dragon Associates (formerly known as Woodmint LTD)? Well on their website (which was updated from a single webpage in the past two weeks) there is this description:
Dragon Associates is an independently owned strategic advisory and communications consultancy, which works alongside its clients to help deliver their objectives.
Rather frustratingly, their ‘what we do‘ section is similarly vague, and only contains a retro diagram with some banal bullet points. Fortunately though, this quote from the website of a PR company called New Approach PR may help.
keeping our clients out of the press is sometimes as important as keeping them in.
I’m not quite sure how such companies can so confidently offer services that keep clients ‘out of the press’, yet if it involves threatening to sue then I imagine they must have some pretty tasty legal expertise in tow. Maybe their ‘network building‘ service puts their clients in touch with good barristers? Afterall, they must have some sweet hook-ups considering half of them went to Eaton.
Anyway, speculation aside, how much does enlistng the helps of these Dragons cost? It’s hard to know for sure, though if we use some simple deductive powers we can make an educated guess. Firstly, Dragon Associates managing Director Charlie Methven (Charles Harry Finlayson Methven) was working for New Century Media until June 2011. Two months later, the Bahrain government awarded a tender to New Century Media to do Public Relations for the Bahrain International Circuit. They were paid 20,000 pounds sterling (approx $31,000) per month.
So just to recap: New Century Media, of which Charlie Methven was Managing Director, had a contract to do PR for the BIC (though not when he was there). Dragon Associates, of which Charlie Methven is Managing Director, currently have a contract with BIC. It is probably logical then to assume that New Century Media are no longer doing the PR for the BIC (though they still list it on their website).With regards to their fee, it would not be unreasonable to assume that Dragon Associates are getting a similar figure – ( I guess we’ll know for sure when the tenderboard website is updated)
As of tonight, the Comment is Free piece is still down, which indicates that the Guardian is taking the complaint very seriously – and so they should. Accusations of libel are no laughing matter, yet I am still curious to know how Dragon Associates were so efficacious in lodging their complaint. Maybe this all nothing though, and the Guardian simply responded to a routine complaint by a company they couldn’t afford to ignore. Either way, I’d like to know precisely what it is about companies such as Dragon Associates that makes them worth the money.
Thanks to @chanadbh for the tenderdoc