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article imageAl Jazeera top exec resigns after WikiLeaks cable exposure

By Lynn Herrmann     Sep 21, 2011 in Politics
Doha - After eight years as director general at Al Jazeera, Wadah Khanfar on Tuesday announced his decision to step down, and follows release of WikiLeaks documents suggesting the news agency, under US pressure, modified coverage of the Iraq war.
In an interview with Al Jazeera, Khanfar said his resignation “has to do with the fact that I have completed my eight years at the management of Al Jazeera.” He went on to add eight years was enough time for any leader to give his energy to such an endeavor.
An Al Jazeera spokesman noted: “Wadah Khanfar had made outstanding contributions to Al Jazeera and journalism worldwide. We all recognize his commitment to courageous reporting and want to continue to build upon those achievements.”
However, several leading news organizations suggest the WikiLeaks cable is connected to Khanfar’s resignation. The Associated Press reports Khanfar “was in constant contact with the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency” in response to US complaints Al Jazeera was providing negative coverage of the Iraq war, and promised to modify such coverage.
CNET News reports the alterations in coverage, according to the leaked cable, involved removal of images of injured children from an online story in which witnesses provided accounts of US military action in Iraq.
The cable came from the US embassy in Doha, Qatar, where Al Jazeera maintains its headquarters. The cable references “problems” the US government had with Al Jazeera in “double-sourcing in Iraq; identifying sources’ use of inflammatory language; a failure to balance of extremist views; and the use of terrorist tapes.”
Also noted in the cable is Khanfar’s suggestion the website piece in question had “been toned down” and that he would “have it removed over the subsequent two or three days.”
In a note to Al Jazeera staff on Tuesday, Khanfar said: “Al Jazeera gained the trust of its audience through consistently speaking truth to power, and channelling peoples' aspirations for dignity and freedom,” Al Jazeera reports.
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