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Tue 20 Sep 2011 07:08 PM

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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

Al Jazeera boss Wadah Khanfar in surprise resignation

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

procan 8 years ago

Why? When the replacement person is not in place.

Vishaal Bhavnani 8 years ago

Great job sir; I choose Al Jazeera over BBC and CNN now

Dr. Qasim Sahbani 8 years ago

Al Jazeera is the expression of mind of billon of citizen of the world especially from Muslims. This is the result of endeavors of such great journalist as Wadah Khanfar and Great man Qatari Shiekh.

Kevin 8 years ago

Such a shame, to lose such leadership.
Khanfar finally resigned under pressure from Gulf Arab governments, to rein in Jazeera after the role it played in the Arab spring and how the tides of change were getting too close to home.
Iconic names are leaving one by one, first Bin Geddo then Khanfar.
Will Jazeera lose its teeth, direction and independence under the new leadership (from QatarGas!), and become more timid?

James Brown 8 years ago

What the Sheikh Ahmad bin Jasem al-Thani has to do with media?
As far as I know, this is not his field.
Was there some kind of pressure on Qatar to remove this execellent man?
Mr. Khanfar, the world will miss you, thank you for all what you did.

Rania HUSSEIN 8 years ago

Maybe after Khanfar resign , al Jazeera can manage to be neutral channel and not to manipulate people as now. As i will be very proud of that Channel at this time .

Tony Sursal 8 years ago

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.

John 8 years ago

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.

Ali 8 years ago

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

Jeff Kline 8 years ago

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