2020 government-backed Saudi festival organised by Vice Media

Art & Culture

The youth media company secretly organised Azimuth Festival despite announcing their withdrawal from the country three years prior.

Taking place on the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Al-‘Ula in the Saudi Arabian desert, the Azimuth Festival line-up boasted names including Tinie Tempah and The Chainsmokers. It was estimated to have cost around $20 million. Its majority-influencer participants could also enjoy food from world-class caterers and Michelin star chefs.

Three years after its unfolding, a Vice insider has revealed that the pricey festival was in fact part of the media company’s continued efforts to make money in Saudi Arabia. This involvement came in spite of their pledge to pause work in the Gulf country following the state-ordered murder of Jamal Khashoggi – a journalist and vocal critic of the Saudi regime.


Seemingly aware of the potential damage to their reputation, Vice asked contractors working on the festival to sign non-disclosure agreements and kept their name off the public marketing material.

According to one employee: “Vice employees have for years raised concerns over the company’s involvement with Saudi Arabia – and we’ve been fobbed off with empty statements and pathetic excuses”.

A spokesperson has since stated that “Vice has always been about creativity and culture for youth in every corner of the world – and in the Saudi Region, two-thirds of the population are under the age of 35.”