A shadowy UK government propaganda unit that privately declares that it works to “effect behavioural and attitudinal change” among British Muslims has drawn up plans to begin operating in France.
The Research, Information and Communications Unit (RICU), which is based at the Home Office in London, generates films, social media, websites, leaflets and news stories that are intended to influence public opinion while concealing the British government’s role in their creation.
Now, documents seen by Middle East Eye show that RICU has awarded a contract to a consortium of communications companies which had demonstrated its ability to operate in France.
The contract makes clear that while these companies are expected to be able to influence Muslim public opinion in France as part of a covert counter-extremism programme, the ultimate aim of the programme would be to encourage the French authorities to develop their own propaganda initiatives on the RICU model.
“RICU-I [RICU International] expects to see evidence of increased political will to tackle terrorism, and a recognition and willingness to act on UK priorities,” the documents say.
It is unclear from the documents whether RICU operations in France have actually begun, or whether the programme is being developed in the hope of securing French co-operation in the future.
However, the documents shed further light on other countries in the Middle East, Europe and Asia where RICU is already working.
Last year MEE reported that the unit was involved in projects which used rap music and graffiti to attempt to influence the thinking and behaviour of youths in Tunisia, Morocco and Lebanon.
The documents show that by the end of 2018, RICU operations had been underway in Jordan, Algeria and Pakistan. The unit has also organised a number of events in Finland and the Netherlands.
The papers also show that the consortium which won the contract was expected to demonstrate an ability to operate in at least four other countries in addition to France: Belgium, Kenya, Bangladesh and Indonesia.
The documents do not disclose the details of the operations being planned for each country,