Should African governments employ Western lobbyists?

Joseph Kabila
Image caption Joseph Kabila has employed a PR firm to boost DR Congo's image abroad

A number of African governments accused of human rights abuses have turned to public relations companies to salvage the image of their countries.

The BBC's Focus on Africa magazine asked two experts whether "reputation management" is mostly a cover-up for bad governance.

Thor Halvorssen, president of the New York-based Human Rights Foundation and founder of the Oslo Freedom Forum, said Yes. He believes that reputation management in Africa "often means whitewashing the human rights violations of despotic regimes with fluff journalism and, just as easily, serving as personal PR agents for rulers and their corrupt family members."

Joel Frushone, founder and president of Crescent Consultants in Washington DC, disagreed.

He did public relations work for President Joseph Kabila during and after the 2006 presidential elections in DR Congo, and argues that "PR firms working for African governments can actually also serve as agents of change. Much more so than human rights groups, who are often perceived by governments as focusing on the negative and serving as watchdogs ready to bite rather than as partners for change."

What do you think? Is "reputation management" a cover-up? Are PR companies representing African governments helping their countries or contributing to hinder their development?