The 2nd Media and Public Relations Forum (MPRF) was held this week in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and there were some interesting decisions at this conference. While generally the PR industry is known for the uber-liberals who dominate the industry, this conference was dominated by issues liberals wouldn’t agree with.  It also shows the continued devotion of Arab nations to the PR process. Numerous people in the PR Agency world have been hired to help spin for Arab nations – including countries like Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and others.

The conference proclaimed and honored outstanding students in PR, including students from the Faculty of Information and Communications at the Imam Muhammad ibn Saud Islamic University – and urged the school to “double their efforts in the field of public relations.”  What is not mentioned in press materials is that the school is a “Sharia and cultural institution run according to Sharia (Islamic Law).

As some may know, under Sharia Law, the clothes worn, music listened to and all behavior is strictly regulated.  Under Sharia law, homosexuality is illegal, non-Muslims are second class citizens, and there are many cruel and unusual punishments for crimes and a very harsh and strict business environment which is not favorable towards business. As some examples, a man unilaterally divorce his wife, but a woman needs her husband’s consent to divorce, a woman who has been raped cannot testify in court against her rapist, a woman cannot speak alone to a man who is not her husband or relative… and there is of course more.

Mohamed Al Ayed, CEO of TRACCS Network CEO in Saudi Arabia recently said “Over the past six decades, the Arab world suffered from lack of communications services and we are trying to compensate for this. Furthermore the public relations industry is expected to maintain a growth rate ranging between 30%-40% annually.” He added that “public relations in Saudi Arabia is in a stage of development and maturity due to the growth in awareness on the importance and value of public relations as a strategic tool.”

Food for thought from Ronn Torossian.