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Established in 1974, Gulf States Newsletter (GSN) provides independent reporting and analysis of the Gulf region and its ruling elites. Supported by neither governments, wealthy individuals nor institutions, GSN functions on a business model based solely on subscription revenues.
Read more about GSN's history
Under the ownership of UK-based Cross-border Information (CbI) for over 20 years, GSN has sought to maintain unbiased, well-informed reporting and analysis to give its subscribers a rigorous understanding of this complex region.
GSN uses a wide range of sources, including official statements, speeches and policies, reports in state-linked media outlets and official news agencies, off-the-record briefings from officials and senior figures within the Gulf and in international capitals, as well as more ad hoc conversations that staff and correspondents have with officials, business executives, analysts and others.
Gulf States Newsletter has been owned by four very different publishers since it first appeared in 1974 (read a short history of GSN) and has been under the ownership of Cross-border Information since August 2000.
Supported by neither governments, wealthy individuals nor institutions, GSN functions on a business model based solely on subscription revenues. It is thus not owned by any of the Gulf royals it writes so much about; nor by British, Israeli or indeed North Korean intelligence, as the rumour mill would sometimes have it. There is no inside track fed by the hidden hand of oligarchs or palace cyberwarriors.
That the precision of GSN’s reporting suggests to some that the newsletter is a hub of powerful forces’ intelligence downloads is flattering. However, the reality is rather more banal – and, indeed, financially constrained. It is the product of a small group of journalists working as hard as they can.
CbI is a business intelligence and consultancy company with a research focus on Africa and the Middle East. Best known for African Energy (which includes the authoritative African Energy newsletter, consultancy practice and African Energy Live Data), the company is based in Hastings, UK and has a separate division focused on bespoke political risk, reputational due diligence and other private client research.
GSN is produced by highly experienced journalists, whose reporting is informed by professional correspondents based on the ground, the majority of whom request anonymity given the sensitivity of GSN’s content.
GSN's core editorial staff are supported by correspondents dedicated to reporting and understanding the region, with a frankness that means anonymity is often essential.
All correspondents are paid at a standard lineage rate – as with everything at GSN, financed from subscriptions by a genuinely independent institution that functions without advertising, sponsors or anonymous backers.
GSN during the CbI years has sought to be as transparent as is possible, while seeking to protect its contributors and sources who must operate in a sensitive political arena, which in many places has become more authoritarian in the last decade.
The commitment to transparency led to a decision in the 2010s to publish the names of ‘Contributors to this issue’, either identifying the writers’ location or better, if they so wished, their names (usually the case for international researchers, rather than local correspondents, whose position was considered more precarious).
However, in issue 1,061, published on 7 June 2018, we explained a change in this policy in a note, Naming names in GSN. The decision was taken to name only core staff, as a means of protecting contributors during a very torrid period for reporters and researchers in the region.
The note was appended to a GSN view article, Political clampdown continues unabated across the monarchies.
The sort of thinking that underpinned this decision was underlined by the arrest of British researcher Matthew Hedges in the UAE, which gained a degree of notoriety when it finally came into the public arena, and his subsequent release in November 2018.