Al Jazeera boss Wadah Khanfar in surprise resignation

Man widely seen as the face of Arab media steps down after 8-yrs at helm of Qatar network

Wadah Khanfar, the director-general of the Qatar-backed Al Jazeera satellite TV network, resigned on Tuesday, to be replaced by a member of the Gulf state’s ruling family.

Khanfar, who has led the network for eight years, said that his goal had been to “establish Al Jazeera as a global media leader,” and that the “target had been met”.

The man widely seen as the face of Arab media will be replaced by Sheikh Ahmad bin Jasem al-Thani, a member of Qatar's ruling family and a member of a top body at state-run Qatargas.

In a posting on Twitter, the Palestinian-born correspondent said: “Eight years is a long time to be leading a network. Renewal and change is always good.

“I think everyone will agree that Al Jazeera is stronger than ever. Our coverage has been exceptional and is now widely viewed.”

Since it was launched in 1996, Al Jazeera has become the highest-profile satellite news broadcaster in the Middle East. It has frequently had difficulties with Western and Arab governments in a region where governments have traditionally kept tight control over state media.

Al Jazeera, owned by the Qatari government, aired round-the-clock coverage of uprisings that brought down veteran rulers in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya this year, and the station promotes itself as a democratic voice in the region.

In a note to staff, Khanfar, a former correspondent in Iraq and Africa, said media independence had been a “contradiction in terms” before Al Jazeera’s launch.

"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,” he said.

"We managed to pleasantly surprise them by exceeding all expectations.”

But critics say the network is more timid in covering events closer to its Gulf home, and the cameras of its main Arabic channel were notably absent during a month of similar protests in the Gulf Arab state of Bahrain which the government crushed in mid-March.

Al Jazeera's bureau chief in Lebanon, Ghassan Bin Jiddo, resigned in April, apparently in disagreement over its coverage of the revolts, which have also engulfed Syria and Yemen.

Leaked US diplomatic cables described the channel as a tool in Qatari diplomacy. The channel has played an important role in raising the prestige of the small, wealthy Gulf Arab state.

*With agencies

Join the Discussion

Disclaimer:The view expressed here by our readers are not necessarily shared by Arabian Business, its employees, sponsors or its advertisers.

NOTE: Comments posted on may be printed in the magazine Arabian Business

Please post responsibly. Commenter Rules

Posted by: Layth

Al Jazeera Arabic & English are thousands of miles ahead of Arabiya. Al Jazeera's senior anchormen and women are well educated and rich in experience. On Al Jazeera everyone gets the chance to talk, while the presenters challenge all the views presented and try to balance the discussion in a polite and dignified manner.
Al Arabiya is a news channel which has an identity crisis. Al Arabiya should decide if it is a news channel or Fashion TV. This is a channel obsessed with beauty and make up, it is dominated by inexperienced young haughty Lebanese who are incompetent in Arabic and seem to have a personal agenda and keep interrupting their guests to prove a point.

Posted by: sonnydubai

The only news to watch is Sky....even when its sister media in the News of The World was being closed the coverage was brutal - honest, open and engaging. This part of the world has a huge amount to learn about all forms of media.

Posted by: Maryam

Hahahaha, you hit it in the spot! Your description is soo true!

Posted by: W

There are plenty of other nationalities employed by AlArabiya and yet you picked on the Lebanese. Looks like you have your own "crisis". The anchormen and women of AlJazeera are aging, old school and dogmatic. Whereas their AlArabiya counterparts are young, vibrant and objective.
News channels all over the developped world show a variety of other programmes besides news reports. Even the BBC and CNN show interest in fashion and beauty. Your views on AlArabiya are biased at best.

Posted by: Jeff Kline

What is next. Wadah was good in what is doing, lots of controversy but nevertheless top professional.

Posted by: Ali

Great News... best of luck to Sheikh Ahmed.
Time to go Golfing Wadah... :)

Posted by: John

Upon resigning he said: "From trying to discredit our reportage and staff through disinformation to lodging official protests with the Qatari government. When this did not stop our reporting, they started harassing our correspondents, detaining our staff and closing our offices. The only way they could stop us was by jamming our satellite signal."

Heroic stuff, and he's an inspiration for journalists in the region.

But now that someone from the Qatari Royal Family is in charge will they do the same? I very much doubt it.

A sad day for journalism in this region.

Posted by: Tony Sursal

It will be very interesting to watch how the coverage will change after a member of royal family is in charge. It will also be interesting to see where Wadah goes! Wadah is a Journalist and professional, but like always in the Gulf, after the meal is cooked, take out the person with the relevant experience and replace him.They don?t know that everything AlJazeera achieved the last 20 years, if it falls in the wrong hands, all this can disappear in matter of months.

All comments are subject to approval before appearing

Further reading

Features & Analysis
Virtue and Vice: The world according to Shane Smith

Virtue and Vice: The world according to Shane Smith

Vice Media co-founder and chief executive Shane Smith set a new...

The art of social media influencing

The art of social media influencing

As social media influencers increasingly demand attention in...

Digital dilemma: the future on advertising

Digital dilemma: the future on advertising

If you’re not advertising online these days, you’re not advertising...

Most Discussed