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Guardian defends Saudi prince ads despite criticism of regime in paper, saying ads ‘in no way affect our editorial position’

By Freddy Mayhew

The Guardian has defended its decision to run adverts supporting Saudi Arabian crown prince Mohammed bin Salman despite criticising him and his regime in editorials in recent months.

Adverts for the Saudi royal appeared online, including next to a comment piece by Labour MP Emily Thornberry on Wednesday (pictured), which was headlined: “Britain’s red carpet for the Saudi ruler is shameless”.

Thornberry criticised the Government for receiving Salman on a state visit this week amid his country’s intervention in Yemen’s civil war where Saudi port blockades are said to have created a growing humanitarian crisis.

The adverts featured a picture of the prince and a woman wearing a hijab in a car, with the line: “He is empowering Saudi Arabian women”. It comes after he changed the country’s law banning women from driving.

In a leader column published in November last year, The Observer said Salman’s Saudi was viewed “as an unpredictable, dangerous loose cannon proficient at starting or fuelling conflicts it cannot finish”.

It said also described Salman’s behaviour as “foolish” and “headstrong”.

In defending its publication of the adverts, a Guardian spokesperson said: “The acceptance of advertising and sponsorship in no way affects our editorial position.

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“We are free to, and often do, challenge the activities of companies and organisations that are also our advertisers and sponsors.”

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