Belgium, (Brussels Morning Newspaper) At a hearing convened by the subcommittee of Human Rights (DROI) at the European Parliament, the Brussels-based human rights organization Droit au Droit presented its investigative report on the United Arab Emirates’ efforts to influence European policy. The hearing was chaired by Maria Arena MEP, Chair of DROI in the European Parliament.
The exchange of views started with the presentation of the report by Mr. Nicola Giovannini, the Executive Director of Droit au Droit who said that the UAE strongly relies on soft power creating diverse channels aiming to persuade European policymakers within the European institutions including the European Parliament that they are advancing their own political interest using a set of agenda which are in contrary with human rights principles.
“The positive image that the UAE endeavors to disseminate and sell away is against the harsh authoritarian and repressive reality faced by journalists, political dissidents, and human rights defenders in the country” added Nicola Giovannini.
The hearing continued with a generous contribution by Rula Jebreal, an award-winning journalist and Visiting Professor at the University of Miami. Jebreal said that While Putin is committing genocidal acts against Ukraine, it is crucial to examine the role of the people especially dictators who are really enabling him while we are still considering them as allies of Europe and the United States.”
We cannot underestimate the people who are thwarting Washington and Brussel’s efforts. These dictators have specific names: Mohammed Bin Zayed of the UAE and Mohammed Bin Salman of Saudi Arabia” added Rula Jebreal.
She also affirmed that these so-called princes are also Putin’s current partners in undercutting EU democracy w propaganda, corruption, & subversion: the UAE and Russia are actively financing and recruiting a host of political actors from far-right, deeply Islamophobic, and xenophobic parties across Europe.
“MBZ’s strategy mirrors Putin’s: aversion to democracy, support for military-backed regimes, bankrolling coups, and justifying their wars by claiming they are fighting Jihadists or Nazis .and yet, their war machines focus exclusively on pro-democracy group” she asserted.
Jebreal concluded her speech with an impressive message to the policymakers in Europe “I’m here to advocate for you to do your job in defending democracy. That’s what you were sent here to do If you don’t believe in democracy, I don’t think you should be here”!
Shelby Grossman, from Stanford University Internet Observatory, delivered an elaborated presentation on “Tactics in online convert influence operations originating in the UAE and Saudi Arabia” referring to the disinformation campaign through Smaat which is based in Saudi Arabia and founded by a man linked to the Saudi Royal family. Shelby pointed out that this company has commercial and political clients as tools for disinformation.
Grossman added that these disinformation factors further include Handle- switching, Fake Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International posts, Astroturfing, and Automated account masking using Quran verses. “ All tactics are being updated for more perceived influence and to escape platform enforcement” Shelby Grossman concluded.