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Al Jazeera Chief Resigns After WikiLeaks Revelation

Mary Slosson |
September 20, 2011 | 9:23 p.m. PDT

Executive Editor

Al Jazeera's former director-general Wadah Khanfer (Photo Creative Commons)
Al Jazeera's former director-general Wadah Khanfer (Photo Creative Commons)
Al Jazeera director-general Wadah Khanfer resigned Tuesday, to be replaced by a member of the Qatari royal family.

The move came "after disclosures from the group WikiLeaks indicating that the news director had modified the network’s coverage of the Iraq war in response to pressure from the United States," the New York Times reported.

Foreign Policy magazine asked whether the resignation would be the "end of the Al Jazeera decade," which has led broadcast media coverage of the Arab Spring:

The sudden resignation this morning of Al Jazeera director-general Wadah Khanfar sent shockwaves through the Arab media world, leading to intense speculation about whether the relative freedom the satellite network had enjoyed is about to come to an end.

Khanfar's replacement, royal family member Ahmed bin Jassim Al Thani, is far from an intrepid journalist:

Al Thani is not a journalist; he is an executive at QatarGas, a state-affiliated natural gas producer. Given that the chairman is Hamad bin Thamer Al Thani, another royal family member, this may not ultimately be such a big deal. But the optics certainly don't look good.

In a statement to Al Jazeera employees upon the announcement of his departure, Khanfer wrote:

"When we launched in 1996 'media independence' was a contradiction in terms. State media was prevalent and was blatantly used for propaganda and misinformation. Within such an environment the public probably doubted that Al Jazeera would fulfill its promise of independent journalism. We managed to pleasantly surprise them by exceeding all expectations."


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