Al Jazeera director resigns amidst ‘US intelligence links’ row
September 21, 2011 2 Comments
By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The senior executive of the Middle East’s most recognizable news television network has resigned following revelations that he met with American intelligence officials and complied with their requests to alter the content of news reports. A brief news report posted today on the Al Jazeera website said that Wadah Khanfar, the news network’s Palestinian-born director, had announced his resignation, eight years after assuming the station’s leadership. In a public statement, Khanfar, whose brother is a Hamas activist in the Gaza Strip, said that Al Jazeera “stands as a mature organization” and that he is “confident that [the station] will continue to maintain its trailblazing path”. But he did not mention the incident that might have led to his resignation: namely the recent revelation that he was in constant contact with US intelligence officials during much of his executive career, and that he agreed to alter the content of some Al Jazeera news reports at their request. According to American diplomatic cables leaked by whistleblower website WikiLeaks, Khanfar came in contact with officials from the US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA, the Pentagon’s premier spy organization) through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Qatar —the Gulf country that owns and operates Al Jazeera. The leaked cables mention that the Palestinian-born executive attended several meetings with DIA personnel in Doha, Qatar, and even agreed to “remove” news content when requested to do so. In one instance, he reportedly directed his editorial staff to remove strong images of injured Iraqi children lying on hospital beds and of a woman with extensive facial injuries. Khanfar has denied any connection between the spy links revelations and his decision to step down from his post, saying that he had been “discussing [his] desire to step down […] for some time” now. He told British newspaper The Guardian that he began discussing his resignation with the station’s board “a couple of months ago”. Khanfar has been replaced by Shaikh Ahmed bin Jassim Al Thani, a member of Qatar’s royal family, which is not known for its strong views in favor of media independence.