Wadah Khanfar, Former Al Jazeera Director: I Was 'Under Pressure' From Middle Eastern Governments
Wadah Khanfar, the former head of Al Jazeera who stepped down in September, said on Monday that many Middle Eastern governments pressured his network to alter its coverage.
Khanfar was speaking to the Global Editors Network summit in Hong Kong. According to Journalism.co.uk, Khanfar told summit attendees that Al Jazeera faced an increased amount of pressure from governments across the Arab world after uprisings in Egypt broke out in 2010.
He reportedly said that "other countries feared 'they would be next' and that the Al Jazeera's coverage would help 'train people in their countries about how to revolt.'" Khanfar also said that Al Jazeera had experienced pressure "for the past 15 years," but that pressure increased in 2010.
Khanfar apparently did not he did not mention the country that was alleged to have played a major role in his departure from Al Jazeera — the United States.
On the same day that Khanfar announced his departure from the Qatari-funded news network, Wikileaks released documents that seemingly demonstrated that he had changed news coverage in response to pressure from the United States. The leaked cable also reportedly showed that Khanfar and the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency were in "constant contact" with one another.
Khanfar staunchly denied that his resignation had anything to do with the leaked cable. In an interview with Al Jazeera, Khanfar also defended himself and said he would only change news material if the complaints were "professionally sound."
In response to claims that his departure from the network that he had effectively run for eight years was rather sudden, Khanfar insisted that his resignation was planned. Qatari business man and member of the royal family Sheik Ahmad bin Jasem bin Muhammad Al-Thani replaced Khanfar.