September 30, 2021

Jeff Zucker, President, CNN Worldwide & Chairman, WarnerMedia News and Sports
David Vigilante, Executive Vice President and General Counsel for CNN and Warner Media News and Sports
Rani R. Raad President, CNN Worldwide Commercial
Calvin Sims, Executive Vice President of Standards and Practices, CNN Worldwide
Mike McCarthy, Executive Vice President and General Manager, CNN International
Allison Gollust, Executive VP and Chief Marketing Officer, CNN Worldwide
Brad Ferrer, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, WarnerMedia News and Sports
Becky Anderson, Host of Connect the World with Becky Anderson & Managing Editor of CNN Abu Dhabi
Richard Quest, Host of Quest Means Business
Max Foster, Host of CNN Talk
Christiane Amanpour, Host of Amanpour

Dear CNN and WarnerMedia Executives, Producers, and Anchors,

CNN Center © Matthew Paulson, licensed under CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

We are deeply troubled to learn that CNN will be an official broadcaster for “Expo 2020 Dubai,” beginning this October 2021. The monarchy of the United Arab Emirates, together with the rulers of Saudi Arabia, have committed horrific human rights violations in Yemen, where they have caused vast levels of suffering for millions of Yemeni civilians. 

The UAE and Saudi governments use high publicity propaganda events, like this October’s UAE “Expo 2020 Dubai” and Saudi Future Investment Initiative, to attract investment and build political clout despite their brutal human rights records. This is why we urge you to 1) reveal the financial and contractual terms of your relationship with the UAE monarchy and the “Expo 2020 Dubai,” 2) reveal all financial and contractual terms for your “Dubai Now” promotional content, and 3) commit to reporting on the UAE’s terrible human rights violations and their use of events like the “Expo 2020 Dubai” for propaganda purposes, in your coverage of the UAE Dubai Expo.  If CNN will not meet these requests, we call on you to withdraw as an “official broadcaster” for the UAE Dubai Expo immediately.

CNN has a duty to provide independent coverage of the UAE and its use of major propaganda events like the “Expo 2020 Dubai” to hide its horrifying human rights record.  Indeed, the UAE and Saudi Arabian monarchies are both profoundly hypocritical for hosting propaganda events that boast of “opportunity, mobility, and sustainability” and that claim to address “global challenges,” while they are simultaneously responsible for killing tens of thousands of innocent civilians through their ongoing war and blockade of Yemen.  Despite ostensibly drawing down its troop presence in Yemen in 2019, the UAE continues to militarily and financially support tens of thousands of proxy forces and mercenaries, torture prisoners at secret detention facilities across Yemen, destroy vital civilian infrastructure, impede the delivery of humanitarian aid, occupy islands off of Yemen’s coast, and annex vital Yemeni territory.

As a result of the Saudi and UAE-led war effort, there are now 16.2 million Yemenis living on the brink of famine. Yemen is also tragically considered the worst place in the world to be a child, with 2.3 million children under five suffering from acute malnutrition. According to the World Food Programme, 400,000 of those children suffer from severe acute malnutrition and could die in the coming weeks and months without urgent treatment. The recent fuel shortages, triggered by the Saudi/UAE-led coalition’s blockade on Yemen, are quickly accelerating major reductions in access to affordable food, clean water, electricity, as well as impeding basic movement across Yemen. This blockade also threatens to shut down hospitals reliant on power generators to tend to victims of famine, while making even emergency travel to hospitals prohibitively expensive for Yemeni families, condemning untold numbers of children to death.

In 2020, Human Rights Watch reported that the UAE has played a major role in the coalition’s war and blockade on Yemen, having committed “over 30 fighter jets to carry out airstrikes and naval ships to enforce the coalition’s maritime blockade.” After over six years of military intervention, the Saudi/UAE-led coalition has conducted tens of thousands of airstrikes on Yemen, killing tens of thousands of civilians and devastating critical economic and agricultural infrastructure. In a country that depends on imports for roughly 90% of its food supply, the coalition’s deliberate targeting of Yemen’s agricultural and economic infrastructure, on top of enforcing its blockade, have helped create conditions that could trigger what the UN warns could be the “biggest famine in modern history.”

We call on you to reveal the financial and contractual terms of your relationship with UAE’s monarchy and commit to independent coverage of the UAE’s human rights violations and propaganda efforts, or withdraw as an official broadcaster for the UAE Dubai Expo, “Expo 2020 Dubai.”


Freedom Forward

Action Corps

Baltimore Nonviolence Center

Center for International Policy

Health Alliance International

Hands Off Yemen

Human Rights Sentinel

ReThinking Foreign Policy

Win Without War

Yemen Relief and Reconstruction Foundation