LONDON (Middle East Eye) -- Saudi Arabia was so spooked by the prospect of major Muslim nations convening at the Kuala Lumpur Summit in December, outside the control of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) which it chairs, that it prepared a media campaign to belittle its importance, Middle East Eye can reveal.
The Saudi Ministry of Media compiled a series of messages which local media organizations and commentators were "instructed” to issue, as well as targeting newspapers, websites and television channels in countries including Pakistan, Indonesia and several Arab states.
The Malaysia summit on 19 December was attended by the leaders of Iran, Turkey and Qatar, and delegates from 56 countries.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan, the head of the world’s second largest Muslim-majority nation, was a notable absentee, after strenuous Saudi efforts were made to stop him from attending.
In February last year the Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman announced a $20 billion package of investment in Pakistan.
Khan bowed to the pressure, sending his foreign minister in his place, but afterwards regretted his decision.
Speaking at a press conference held earlier this month alongside Kuala Lumpur Summit host Mahathir Mohamad, the Malaysian prime minister who resigned on Monday, Khan said: "Some of our close friends felt that the conference would divide the Ummah, which was not the purpose of the conference.
I feel that it is the duty of the Muslim countries to educate the western countries and other nations about Islam.”
The document states that the key purpose of their campaign was to "belittle the importance of the summit and the decisions that may emerge out of it in view of the absence, or the downgrading of the level of participation by Islamic states that play a pivotal role in leading the Islamic world and in serving its causes”.
It told its journalists to write that the convening of a mini-summit in Malaysia outside the framework of the OIC could "encourage the creation of similar blocs among other Islamic states that have not been invited. These states would be tempted to convene other summits. Consequently, efforts would be wasted and so would be the endeavor to reform the structure of the organization”.
The document also told them to highlight Imran Khan’s withdrawal from the summit.
"The absence of pivotal Islamic states from the Malaysian summit, and the cancellation of the participation of Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan, and downgrading the level of representation to that of the Foreign Minister, reflects the lack of conviction on the part of a country that has been instrumental in setting up this summit that it would not be possible to achieve any success outside the framework of the OIC.”
More revealing still were the "implementation mechanisms” revealed in the secret document.
These included: "Instructing authors of opinion columns to criticize any grouping formed for the purpose of achieving narrow political objectives outside the OIC,” along with the preparation of TV news reports highlighting the role of the kingdom in founding the OIC, and the hosting of political analysts.
These were put out on a host of Saudi TV channels, radio stations, and newspapers.
The document also lists a number of foreign media organizations at which the propaganda campaign was to be targeted.
These included the Dawn, Daily Jang and Nawa-i-Waqt newspapers in Pakistan; Al-Rai, Ad-Dustour, and Ammon newspapers and websites in Jordan; and other news channels and publications in countries including Egypt, Sudan, Iraq, Lebanon, Indonesia and India.
A Turkish official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that there had been ongoing anti-Turkey propaganda efforts by Saudi authorities since the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018.
"We aren’t even surprised by any of this,” the official said. "They continuously smear Turkey.... They never downgrade their anti-Turkey efforts.
"They spend millions of dollars on this, making American and British companies rich to relay ridiculous talking points to their own parrots.”
A Turkish diplomat said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was angry at Saudi and Emirati officials for putting pressure on Imran Khan to cancel his participation into the summit.
"The Saudis thought Turkey and Qatar were trying to forge a new division with the south Asian countries by also adding Iran to the picture. They were totally mistaken. It was regional countries that invited Turkey and Qatar. It wasn’t led by Ankara,” the diplomat said.
Erdogan at the time said that Khan was pressured to cancel his visit.
Speaking to reporters in the Malaysian capital in December, he said: "This isn’t the first time that the Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi administrations have taken such an attitude.
"Unfortunately, we observe that Saudi Arabia is putting pressure on Pakistan. See, there are [Saudi] promises to Pakistan regarding its central bank.
"Beyond everything else, there are four million Pakistan workers in Saudi Arabia,” said Erdogan. "They [Saudi Arabia] tell them that ‘we can send them back, and instead take Bangladeshis’.
"On the other hand, regarding the central bank, they tell [Pakistan] that they could withdraw their money. And following similar threats, Pakistan, which is facing harsh economic conditions, found itself in a position to take such [a decision not to attend the summit].”