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Anti-Shell adverts and articles pulled just before publication

EXTRACT: “It is fair to conclude that Shell is allergic to criticism, and has no qualms about ruthlessly using its financial muscle to manipulate the news media, brainwash shareholders, greenwash motorists and censor critics who wish to point out the inconvenient truth.”

By John Donovan

Interesting to note the controversy over the last minute decision by the Financial Times against publishing a powerful anti-Shell advert by Amnesty International, who must be left wondering whether Shell brought some influence to bear?

I was left in the same position after The Sunday Times in 2007, aborted a half page article about us and our unique relationship with Shell.

At 11am on a Saturday morning, 3 February 2007, I received a phone call from a Sunday Times journalist, Steven Swinford. He read out the entire article to check on accuracy, particularly in respect of quotes attributed to me. Our involvement in the Sakhalin2 affair was described as the “ultimate revenge” costing Shell £11 billion UK pounds ($22 billion USD).

This estimate was based on a Shell admission announced at the beginning of February 2007, that the change of ownership of Sakhalin2 had resulted in a loss of 400,000 boe from its reserves (calculated at that time at $56 dollars per barrel).

However, the article was not published.

I thought no more of it until shortly thereafter a “major advertising feature” was published in The Sunday Times focused on the “partnership” between Ferrari and Shell. My suspicions were now aroused.

Following a subsequent Subject Access Request to Shell under the Data Protection Act, I was shocked to read a Shell internal email containing the following passage:-

“…the Sunday Times has picked up the Sakhalin/drilling leaked e-mail story from Donovan’s website, They are responding with agree Os and As that have been used previously with the Guardian, but are first trying to kill the story by pointing out that is old news – slim chance that this will work.”

Coincidentally I received a letter today 18 May 2010, from a senior lawyer at Times Newspapers Limited relating to the same matters involving another DPA application, which has been given “much thought” – including a discussion with the Managing Editor of The Sunday Times. I was assured by Steven Swinford at the time that he had no knowledge that the article was killed and I accepted his word without reservation (and still do).

Also in 2007, Shell media got into a flap about an article/email I sent to Bill O’Reilly at Fox News, entitled “Shell’s treachery in Iran”.  Shell readied its lawyers and spin masters on that occasion and set up a counter-measures team.

Shell abandoned its own “censorship free” Internet discussion forum – TellShell” – after we exposed secret censorship of postings critical of Shell.

Shell then tried to persuade us to censor our own posting on our own website criticizing Jeroen van der Veer in relation to Shell’s Sakhalin surrender.

We are also aware from former Shell International HSE Group Auditor Bill Campbell, of the disgraceful pressure that Shell applied to Upstreamonline to suppress an article about North Sea oil platform safety issues.

It is fair to conclude that Shell is allergic to criticism, and has no qualms about ruthlessly using its financial muscle to manipulate the news media, brainwash shareholders, greenwash motorists and censor critics who wish to point out the inconvenient truth.

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