Success at a price

Friends of al-Jazeera report disturbing rumours:

It is rumored that the new pro-US Board of Directors (which include the former Qatari Ambassador to the United States, Hamad Al Kuwari and Mahmood Shamam who are both are clearly sympathetic to the US Agenda in the region) and their representative at station, the new Qatari Managing Director, Mr. Ahmad Kholeifi is a result of pressure placed on the Emir of Qatar by the US Administration.

Rumours of a “soft editorial shift” towards a more pro-Qatari and pro-US agenda are already floating around media circles in the region.

Sources inside AlJazeera have confirmed that the Board has already instituted radical changes that threaten the stations editorial integrity and independence. In less than a month since the pro-American Board of Directors was appointed, weeping edicts affecting the whole of AlJazeera have been passed down by the newly appointed Qatari Managing Director, Ahmad Al Kholeifi.

Many in AlJazeera are confused about the exact role of Mr. Kholeifi and whom he reports to. Speculation is being made on whether the Managing Director (Kholeifi) reports to the Director-General (Khanfar) or vise-versa. Khanfar, the current Director-General has been silent on the issue thus far and sources inside AlJazeera have told us that he has been absent from the station for over a week.

The Qatari Government seems to be shifting away from the “hands off” approach that it had towards AlJazeera over the last 10 years and now looks like it will exert more influence over the channel. Journalists at AlJazeera are speculating that this could be a huge blow to the editorial independence that made AlJazeera the most watched news channel in the region.

The popularity and respect shown towards al-Jazeera across the Middle East (including here in Iran) is a sign that the US feels threatened by its ever-growing power. At various stages, the channel has been accused of being pro-Israeli, pro-US, anti-Palestinian, pro-Zionist, pro-war and anti-government. In other words, it’s doing a damn good job of upsetting those in power (and appealing to the masses.)

It’s been interesting to note the views of those in Iran towards the station. Overall, al-Jazeera is a source of unfiltered information that is simply impossible to obtain from state-run media. Iranian newspapers (including the English-language Tehran Times) are of generally poor quality, so it’s no surprise that al-Jazeera is loved (in fact, I was told that their Teheran offices were recently briefly closed for allegedly offending Ahmadinejad.)

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