'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

US Approved Content on Al Jazeera 

From a US diplomatic cable released by wikileaks, describing communications between the public affairs office of the US embassy in Doha and then Al Jazeera Managing Editor Wadah Khanifar on October 18, 2005:

¶7. (C) PAO raised the question of an Al Jazeera website piece published in the last week, listed under the heading Special Coverage, and containing Live Testimony Concerning Tal Afar. The site opens to an image of bloody sheets of paper riddled with bullet holes. Viewers click on the bullet holes to access testimony from ten alleged eye witnesses who described recent military operations in Tal Afar.

¶8. (C) Khanfar said that, in accordance with an earlier promise to PAO (Ref B), he had taken a look at the piece and had two images removed (two injured children in hospital beds, and a woman with serious facial injury). PAO pointed out that the testimony of a doctor in the piece also implied that poison gas had been used on residents of Tal Afar and that the appearance of the piece, in particular the bloody bullet hole icons, came across as inflammatory and journalistically questionable. Khanfar appeared to repress a sigh but said he would have the piece removed. Not immediately, because that would be talked about, but over two or three days, he said.

¶9. (C) He said he had told the website staff that in future, when they want to add an item to the Special Coverage section of the website, they should send a draft of the idea over to his office. (Note: The AJ website is located in a separate building across town. End note.) He noted that until two or three months ago, the website staff had enjoyed much more autonomy. Now, however, website director Abdel Aziz Al Mahmoud attends the weekly editorial meetings at the TV channel offices, and the website staff is being pulled under the umbrella of the same editorial standards as the TV channel. I don't say that such things are not going to be repeated on the website, but it is a learning process, said Khanfar.

Khanifar resigned from Al Jazeera earlier this week upon the release of this cable, as well as some other ones, by Al-Akhbar in Lebanon.

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