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article imageAl Jazeera channel losing staff over 'bias' on Syria

By Anne Sewell     Mar 12, 2012 in World
Beirut - Al Jazeera's Beirut news bureau is currently losing key staff due to 'bias' in the channel's stance on the conflict in Syria.
According to Al Akhbar, the bureau's managing director, Hassan Shaaban reportedly resigned last week after leaked emails revealed his frustrations over the news channel's coverage of Syria, according to a source within the television network.
RT reported that a source told the Lebanese paper Al Akhbar that Al Jazeera’s Beirut correspondent Ali Hashem had quit over the channel’s stance on covering events in Syria.
A source apparently told the Lebanese press that "… his position [which] changed after the station refused to show photos he had taken of armed fighters clashing with the Syrian Army in Wadi Khaled. Instead [Al Jazeera] lambasted him as a shabeeh (implying a regime loyalist).”
The newspaper advised that Ali Hashem was also infuriated by Al Jazeera’s refusal to cover a crackdown by the King of Bahrain while twisting its Syria angle.
“[In Bahrain], we were seeing pictures of a people being butchered by the 'Gulf's oppression machine', and for Al Jazeera, silence was the name of the game,” he said.
The Beirut bureau’s producer also quit claiming Al Jazeera had totally ignored Syria’s constitutional reform referendum, which saw a 57% turnout with 90% voting for change.
Journalist and author Afshin Rattansi, who worked for Al Jazeera, told RT that, “sadly, the channel had become one-sided voice for the Qatari government’s stance against Bashar al-Assad, having begun as the region’s revolutionary broadcaster."
“It is very disturbing to hear how Al Jazeera is now becoming this regional player for foreign policy in a way that some would arguably say the BBC and others have been for decades,” he said. “If Al Jazeera Arabic is going to take a war-like stance after [the] Qatari government, this would be very ill.”
Journalist and anti-war activist Don Debar, who has also had Al Jazeera experience, confirmed that the station has been heavily guided by the Qatari government in its policies.
“That has been ongoing since last April of 2011,” Debar told RT. “The head of the bureau in Beirut quit, many other people quit because of the biased coverage and outright hand of the government in dictating editorial policy over Libya, and now Syria.”
Sources explained that most reporters at Al Jazeera are professionals and come from prestigious schools of journalism where such biased coverage is unacceptable and particularly since several field reporters are “seeing the truth” for themselves.
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