The departure of Wadah Khanfar after eight years of leading the network may have come as a surprise to some. To us, however, it’s the Arab Spring reaching the corner office at Aljazeera.
We have said in several columns that Aljazeera not only needs look at its policy while covering certain stories and issues it must also be mindful of the ideology of people at the helm there because of the obvious influence on programmes and stories that the network covers. Some programmes and the way some stories have been covered seemed to strengthen that impression.
We have also mentioned on various occasions that Aljazeera needs to not only change its editorial policy but also its administrative management policies. Change and growth in the network should be vertical, not horizontal.
It’s quite a coincidence that this change came just weeks after more Wikileaks documents were released about Khanfar’s meeting with a PAO from the US Embassy about toning down a website piece on the USG and his promising to remove the article over the subsequent two or three days, as well as the release of an additional 1,200 documents about Aljazeera.
A series of resignations by the channel’s staff earlier this year, most prominent among them being Aljazeera’s Beirut bureau chief Ghassan Al Jiddoo’s, was perhaps the most telling sign of impending changes in the channel’s management.
Khanfar’s replacement with Sheikh Ahmed bin Jasim bin Mohammed Al Thani, a member of the ruling family, while a welcome move and a clear indication of Qatari identity, will pose an added challenge to the channel. It will need to debunk the belief — with its professionalism and clear editorial policies — that Aljazeera is indeed not a tool of the government.
We hope that the new director-general will do all it takes to add to the network’s credibility and trustworthiness. We also hope that this change will influence Aljazeera English as well as Aljazeera Children’s Channel.
We hope Aljazeera will focus not only on the negative news but also on positive developments.
More importantly, we hope that the new director-general will consider news and issues about Qatar to show to the world that Aljazeera provides a balanced point of view and prove to critics that Aljazeera does not have double standards.
A Qatari at the helm will help Aljazeera provide balanced coverage as well as push government authorities to finally come out with the much-awaited media law.
However, we hope that this media law will be up to people’s expectation especially since we have the Doha Centre for Media Freedom as well as the prestigious journalism-focused learning institution, Northwestern University in Qatar.
The eyes of the world are on Qatar right now, with the big role that Qatar has played in the Arab Spring and the upcoming 2022 World Cup as well as Qatar’s bid for the 2020 Olympics and the 2017 IAAF Championships, media agencies and companies are monitoring, Qatar’s every move. We should not give them a chance to project Qatar in a negative light. We should put our finest foot forward and show to the world that Qatar can take its place among the world’s best.
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