Birds of a feather? Steven King, plagiarism, Apco Worldwide, Narendra Modi and asbestos

Narendra Modi is the  chief minister of Gujarat state in India and has overseen impressive development successes in his state, but he is considered a staunch member of the right-wing nationalistic Hindu camp and was indirectly – if not directly – responsible for the vicious anti-Muslim riots and killings in the state in 2002.

Steven King works for APCO Worldwide, a public relations and communications group, and is based in Delhi. His weekly column for the Irish Examiner has been revealed to contain widespread plagiarism and he has now apparently gone into hiding. Now it seems that part of his work at APCO includes an effort to rebrand Narendra Modi who has aspirations to be the next Prime Minister.

Tehelka reports:

…. the US Congressional Research Service (CRS) report that portrayed Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi as a messiah of economic reforms. …. This glory, however, is largely a consequence of the brand-building exercise that Modi had adopted in 2007 through the help of a Washington-based Public Relations (PR) and lobbyist firm APCO worldwide. APCO, which is the second largest independent PR firm in America, took on the responsibility of taking care of PR for both Modi as well as the biennial industrial summit ‘Vibrant Gujarat’ in 2007. The firm, known for intensive lobbying, brought in investment commitment of up to Rs 20.83 lakh crore (ed. about $4.1 billion) in the 2011 summit. The Gujarat government has been paying nearly Rs 15 lakh rupees (ed. about $31,000) a month to ( APCO) since 2009 in order to bring about the image makeover.

APCO has also been managing Modi’s own behaviour and projection, for which the cost has been over $25,000 per month since 2007. Curiously, APCO was chosen over 10 other firms that also included Weber Shandwick, Grey Worldwide, Twenty-Twenty and Vaishnavi Communications owned by the controversial publicist Niira Radia. The firm, which also specialises in political PR, is notorious for having dictators such as former Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha amongst its clients. The firm, which keenly observes political conditions across the world, also boasts about changing its clients’ fortunes.

“We have a deep understanding of how governments make decisions and how to shape those decisions. It is through this extensive experience that we are able to advise sovereign nations on how best to tell their stories to the rest of the world,” claims the APCO Worldwide website. When asked about Narendra Modi, Steven King of APCO told TEHELKA that he could not divulge any detail on his clients.

APCO is involved in promoting other dubious causes as well:

The Department of Occupational Safety & Health in Malaysia has called for a ban on all forms of asbestos in order to save people’s lives. …. 

APCO Worldwide is lobbying the government of Malaysia, on behalf of an undisclosed client, to exclude chrysotile asbestos from the ban. Chrysotile asbestos represents 100% of the global asbestos trade today… The scientific consensus is clear – just as it is on tobacco – that all forms of asbestos, including chrysotile asbestos, cause mesothelioma, lung cancer, other cancers and asbestosis and that safe use is not possible.

Only lobby organizations that have a financial interest in selling asbestos claim that asbestos can be safely used, just as the lobby organizations acting on behalf of the tobacco industry have denied the clear science on tobacco harm.

APCO Worldwide has refused requests to disclose who is the client who has hired APCO Worldwide to carry out this political lobbying.

We understand that the client who has hired APCO Worldwide to oppose the ban is, in fact, the International Chrysotile Association, which represents the global asbestos industry.

As the Consumer Association of Penang has stated, “It is imperative that Malaysia joins this global campaign to ban the use of all types of asbestos and not bow to pressure by groups that place financial gains before public health.” ….

Whether Steven King is the  greater liability to APCO or whether it is vice versa is debatable.

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