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We’ve got our eye on you—Corruption in the Gulf

We’ve got our eye on you—Corruption in the Gulf

The region’s recent unrest has seen corruption as the key complaint. How has this been shown in the digital world? Kipp’s sister magazine Trends and Fisheye Analytics investigate.

August 22, 2011 12:36 by

Apart from Bahrain, GCC countries appear to be immune to instability. There have been no major public protests, but ask the average citizen in the street and he will be quick to point out that albeit the richest coalition in the Arab world, the GCC is far from being immune to corruption and inequality.

Three countries in particular – Qatar, the UAE  and Saudi Arabia ranked 19, 28 and 50 in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, respectively – stand out as having relatively ‘clean’ records compared to their neighbours. These three countries have successfully averted the worst of the ‘Arab Spring’ but would-be reformers and armchair protestors are
becoming highly active on the internet. And if the arrests of five UAE internet activists in April are anything to go by, the governments of these ambitious, reputation-conscious nations are taking notice of online chatter.

Recent efforts by these three nations also point to a rising consciousness of their own internal corruption records. Saudi Arabia launched its anti-corruption commission with the aim of shoring up its international profile against potentially escalating corruption claims
given the regional political climate. Qatar, having built a generally positive image in recent years, has been heavily managing the allegations of corruption in conjunction with its winning the 2022 World Cup venue bid. The UAE, whose tight-grip controls have long been accepted by the international community that has supported its lightning-fast development, has also recently found itself scrambling to defend its reputation against terrorism-related charges. Have these efforts been effective?


Fisheye Analytics, an international media intelligence company, looked into the public profiles of these countries to see how ‘corruption’ is affecting their reputations, both at home and abroad.

The stories that dominated the international media in the past three months were Saudi Arabia’s ban on women driving and the Manal El-Sherif case, the crackdown in Bahrain and the FIFA/Qatar corruption scandal.

The USA, the UK, Canada and Australia have had the highest number of mentions of corruption in conjunction with three countries, followed by the Middle East region, South Africa and Southeast Asia.  Interestingly, these discussions were disproportionately negative in Singapore and India – No. 1 and No. 87 respectively in the Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index (2010).


No doubt, the total volume of corruption-related discussion has been boosted by steadily growing discussions in Saudi Arabia – there have been a total of 41,494 mentions for the three countries combined in online news, blogs, Twitter, Facebook and other online platforms in the past three months, of which 15,549 can be attributed to the kingdom.

On April 24, Saudi Arabia experienced a peak due to discussions on its intervention in Bahrain, a bribery scandal involving a policeman and the Jeddah Municipality corruption scandal. Two days later, the release of the IMF report explains another peak. On May 22, the start of the campaign against the ban on driving for Saudi women provoked an important number of discussions.


The first surge for Qatar was on April 24 due to the release of an IMF report urging Arab states to tackle corruption for a sustainable economic development.  On May 11, Qatar experiences a notable peak with the Bin Hammam scandal. This event will continue influencing discussions on corruption until the end of the month on May 30, when there is another notable increase in discussions due to the development of the FIFA affair and the doubts regarding Qatar’s bid for the World Cup.Twitter patterns are clearly news-driven, parodying mainstream news’ peaks and troughs throughout the period.


The UAE experienced its first peak with the release of the IMF report urging Arab states to fight corruption. But on May 22, the allegations made against the UAE linked to the financing of terrorism increased the debate on accountability and corruption in the Emirates.

Considering the volume of discussion of corruption in Saudi Arabia, it comes as a surprise that ‘corruption’ dominates just two percent of Saudi Arabia’s total coverage (nine percent of Qatar’s and two percent of the UAE’s). A closer look will reveal this percentage is significant and potentially damaging and its spread shows the Internet’s power to incite and inform.

One illustrative story that is thwarting Saudi Arabia’s efforts at…(CONTINUED TO NEXT PAGE)

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  1. Malek Moubasher on August 22, 2011 11:35 pm

    i cheeked the website of the Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, Qatar is ranked 19, UAE 28 and KSA 50

    Kipp !!

  2. p.deleon on August 23, 2011 8:42 am

    Hi Malek, thanks for the heads up! We paid a second visit to the Index and have made the necessary corrections…


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