Al Jazeera Network Director General Wadah Khanfar announced his resignation today, creating a stir on social networking site Twitter. The Palestinian-born journalist, who was at the helm of the network for eight years, is being replaced by a member of the Qatar royal family, Shaikh Ahmed bin Jassim Al Thani.
On Twitter, Khanfar, who has changed his profile bio to “Former Director-General of the Al Jazeera Network,” shared reasons for his resignation.
@khanfarw: After 8 years of service leading Al Jazeera, I have just announced that I am moving on.
@khanfarw: 8 years is a long time to be leading a Network. Renewal and change is always good.
He also adds:
@khanfarw: Entertained by all the rumors of why I have resigned. #whatdoyouthink? :-)
Those rumours ranged from accusing Khanfar of being a CIA agent to being brought down by the leaked United States cables made public by whistle-blowing site WikiLeaks.
Zeinobia, who runs Egyptian Chronicles, opines:
Despite Khanfar made it clear in his farewell that the he though of stepping down for quite some time now , many link his resignation to the recent cables released by Wikileaks about his meetings with U.S state of Defense Department intelligence agency “DIA” officers in Doha in 2005.
Cable ref.id : #05DOHA1765 shows that there was a meeting allegedly held on October 19th ,2005 between the managing director of Al Jazeera Network then Khanfar and the CIA officers who did not like the performance of the Al Jazeera.Net website content and believed it was hostile against the U.S government. The officers had monthly reports with the performance of the channel and the website. Allegedly Khanfar promised them to tune down the language and remove the pieces they complained from
Zeinobia also provides us with a link to all the cables that deal with Khanfar.
The Syrian propaganda machine too had a reason for Khanfar's resignation. Foreign Policy Editor Blake Hounshell, who is based in Doha, Qatar, notes:
@blakehounshell: Syrian media pounces –> RT @rallaf: “Al-Jazeera Top Officials Resign for fabricating news on #Syria”
Saudi King Saud University political communication professor, Ahmed Bin Rashid Bin Saeed, finds the excuse funny:
@LoveLiberty: Take a moment to laugh at #Assad TV: #AlJazeera director Waddah Khanfar resigns for fabricating news on #Syria #Libya and #Yemen
Khanfar also came under fire for what is seen as Al Jazeera's link to Islamists.
@blakehounshell: Among Arab liberals, the critique of Al Jazeera under @khanfarw's tenure is that he took the network in a strongly Islamist direction.
And Libyan Twitter user Libyan and Proud replies:
@libyanproud: I'm not a liberal, just wld like to see different views, but 90% of libyan commentators were MB on AJ
For The Big Pharaoh from Egypt, Khanfar's exit brings hope:
@TheBigPharaoh: All what I want from Al Jazeera's new management is to pull it away from adopting the agenda of a certain political force namely islamists.
Meanwhile, Lebanese media personality Octavia Nasr quips:
@octavianasr: HUGE NEWS WITH INTERESTING TIMING! -> Head of #AlJazeera Networks Waddah Khanfar resigns RT @halmustafa
And Lebanese TheZako, who tweets from London, is not happy with the appointment of a member of the Qatari ruling family to head the station:
@TheZako: AlJazeera is officially a ‘State TV’ now. To hell any independence.
hiring a royal to head Al Jezeera tells us everything about who you are as a news entity. you obsequious sycophants can kiss my ring…and wave good bye to the thinking intellectuals who thought better of your organization ! free speech is part and parcel to freedom and the health of democratic values. just as the lion keeps the herds and the flocks healthy by taking the sick and injured, so does criticism keep the evolution and the preservation of the truth current in the institutional ideological narratives that effect the human condition! Democracy is not just a word…it’s a chance to begin the world anew and it starts with you! the truth will not survive without criticism… and if need be personal attacks! My apologies to those who believe the emperor should be able to walk around with no clothes…fear will do that! Good luck with your fair and balanced reporting…
Isn’t that a step in the wrong direction? In the US we watch Al-Jazeera network as an alternative to local cable networks. It gave us a good comparison of factual news but now I’m not too sure. Taken over by the Qatar royal Shaikh is going to be damaging because the royals tend to be more narrow minded when it comes to free press. Good luck!