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Al Jazeera's attacks on Syria: some background

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Mass resignations at Al Jazeera over Syria

Al Jazeera Anchorwoman, Rula Ibrahim, said: she had "turned against the [Syrian] revolution [after realising that it] would destroy the country and lead to a civil war". The Free Syrian Army is "a branch of Al Qaeda', she said, adding that had "been utterly humiliated. They wiped the floor with me because I embarrassed Zuheir Salem, spokesperson for Syria's Muslim Brothers. As a result I was prevented from doing any Syrian interviews, and threatened with transfer to the night shift on the pretext that I was making the channel unbalanced' (Al Akhbar 2012).

Al Jazeera's head of news, Ibrahim Hilal said he was "stuck between a rock and hard place, the agenda and professionalism' (Al Akhbar 2012).

Al Jazeera's Beirut Bureau Managing Director Hassan Shaaban quit, so did Al Jazeera producer Ali Hashem. A source told the Lebanese newspaper Al Akhbar that Hashem quit "after the station refused to show photos he had taken of armed fighters clashing with the Syrian Army in Wadi Khaled. Instead [Al Jazeera] lambasted him as a shabeeh [a regime loyalist or thug].' Hashem was "infuriated' over Al Jazeera's refusal to cover a crackdown by the King of Bahrain while twisting its Syria angle. In Bahrain "we were seeing pictures of a people being butchered by the Gulf's oppression machine, and for Al Jazeera, silence was the name of the game' (RT 2012).

Ghassan Ben Jeddo, a former head of the Beirut bureau, said Al Jazeera was biased in covering the Arab Spring, especially in Syria and Bahrain: "with respect to the events in Syria and Bahrain, we started to invite guests from America who only criticise the regime in Syria and support the regime in Bahrain and persons who justify NATO intervention. This is unacceptable' (RT 2012).

Journalist Afshin Rattansi, who worked for Al Jazeera, said that "sadly' the station had become a one-sided voice for the Qatari Government's stance against Bashar Al Assad: "The way Al Jazeera has covered the story of Syria is completely one sided'(RT 2012). Former English language blogger Ted Rall also quit in his role as a columnist for Al Jazeera: "'leftist and progressive voices were not welcome anymore " there's a chill, they're controlling things more' (RT 2012). Journalist Don Debar, who contributed to Al Jazeera, said the strong Qatari control had been noticeable since April 2011: "many people quite because of the biased coverage and outright hand of the government in dictating editorial policy over Libya, and now Syria'.

Former Al Jazeera producer Moussa Ahmed also resigned, saying that Al Jazeera's aggression against Syria, had led to it concealing facts and fabricated stories (see YouTube: "Al Jazeera Faked Syria, Libya News Reports Says Producer'). He regretted being part of this.

Network boss Wadah Khanfar also resigns, but defends Al Jazeera

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Wadah Khanfar claimed that Al Jazeera was: "The voice of the voiceless " Al Jazeera is a mission'.  He denied claims that it was "pro-Muslim brotherhood' or pro-Al Qaeda. "There is nothing like that. Al Jazeera is a representation, you know, diversity in the Arab world. In our newsroom we have every single nationality, we have every single, you know, ideology, we have every single background " How could we be pro-Muslim brotherhood or pro-Arab nationalists or pro-whoever? " The normal people, ordinary people in the Arab world, see Al Jazeera as their voice.' (Khanfar 2010).

At the time of his own resignation, in September 2011, Khanfar said: "I thought maybe it's good to give an example " [about Arab leaders not staying forever; to leave] while the network is at the peak of its performance. It's the right moment " We have stood with the people and support their freedom " we continue to support the fight of the youth to achieve dignity and freedom from tyranny and dictatorship' (Black and Harding 2011).

Yet Wikileaks cables showed that Khanfar had shifted Al Jazeera closer to the US Government

and had done them favours. A report in the New York Times pointed out:

"Wadah Khanfar " said that the Qatari Foreign Ministry had already provided him with two months of the American reports ... he urged American officials to keep his behind-the-scenes collaboration a secret " Mr Khanfar said in the cable that he had changed coverage at the American official's request. He said he had removed two images depicting wounded children in a hospital and a woman with a badly wounded face. When the official raised other complaints, Mr Khanfar "appeared to repress a sigh', according to the cable, but he said he would have the piece removed'. "Not immediately', he reportedly said, "because that would be talked about, but over two or three days'(Kirkpatrick 2011).

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Khanfar was replaced as Al Jazeera boss by Sheik Ahmad bin Jasem bin Muhammed Al-Thani, a businessman and member of the Qatari Royal family (Kirkpatrick 2011).

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Tim Anderson is an academic and social activist based in Sydney, Australia

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