Lonely Planet is a non-political travel publisher providing readers with objective travel information. The historical, cultural, and political context of a destination is important background information to help travelers get the most from a trip, understand the destination they have chosen to visit, and appreciate what they will experience when they get there.
We strongly refute any suggestion that we have any political affiliation or bias, and in particular that we are sympathetic to repressive regimes. The quotes from our guides that Michael Moynihan uses throughout his "Leftist Planet" article are selective, taken out of context, and do not represent Lonely Planet's comprehensive, balanced view.
For example, "Leftist Planet" says that Lonely Planet saw in Kim Jong Il a "pragmatism and relative openness to change." The term "relative openness" is, in fact, clearly and specifically used in the guide to compare North Korean policies at the time of publication with those of the earlier famine years of the 1990s. Moreover, "Leftist Planet" omits that Lonely Planet also states, in the same book, that "North Korea is a police state with a human-rights record among the worst on earth. Concentration camps, executions, state-orchestrated terror and mass-control by a vast propaganda machine are a daily reality for millions here." The book adds that "it's difficult to overstate the ramifications of half a century of Stalinism -- and it's no overstatement to say that North Korea is the most closed and secretive nation on earth."
"Leftist Planet" goes on to say about Lonely Planet's coverage of Iran: "In fact, ignore all the hyperventilating about nuclear weapons, because it's 'hard to argue with' Iran's claim that its uranium-enrichment program exists only for peaceful purposes.'" Taken in full, the passage in fact says nothing of the kind: "Iran says it is developing a nuclear energy program as an alternative to fossil fuels. It says nuclear weapons are not part of the plan. But Iran's refusal to declare the program for years, or to allow full or timely inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency, has raised persistent doubts. For most Iranians, completing the nuclear fuel cycle is a matter of national pride, but few want the bomb. Iran sticks vehemently to its ‘peaceful purposes' line. Why build a nuclear reactor and need another country to supply the fuel, it asks, when we can produce it ourselves? It's hard to argue with that but if, after all the denials, Iran does produce a nuclear bomb, whatever little credibility the Iranian government retains in the international community will be gone."
In a third example, "Leftist Planet" states "Lonely Planet enthuses that Cuba is 'a country devoid of gaudy advertising,' possessing a 'uniqueness [that] is a vanishing commodity in an increasingly globalized world.'" The full context is: "While the directional signage in Cuba is famously thin on the ground, there's no lack of pointers toward socialism, the 'battle of ideas' and Fidel Castro's face. In a country devoid of gaudy advertising, billboards have become the preserve of political propagandists."
Other quotes are taken out of context and many are from old editions no longer in print or published prior to major sociopolitical changes in the destination. For instance, the editions on Libya and Syria predate last year's Arab Spring.
Foreign Policy chose not to contact Lonely Planet for comment or fact-checking prior to publication. Instead it has published an article which quotes Lonely Planet guides out of context, and so mischaracterizes our content and clearly misleads its readers.
Editor's note: FP has issued a correction to the original article in question, which you can find here.