The man who built Al Jazeera into a global TV news powerhouse was replaced after Wikileaks released a cable showing he collaborated with the U.S. government. Apparently this did not go over well with the Middle Eastern royal family that actually owns the network.
Wadah Khanfar technically stepped down, but the New York Times and others have been quick to tie the Al Jazeera director's departure to a leaked U.S. diplomatic cable that said he agreed to remove images in an online slideshow depicting women and childen injured amid U.S. military operations. The cable also implied he had been working closely and systematically with the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency to soften other coverage, contradicting the reputation Khanfar had built for Al Jazeera over the prior eight years as a counterweight to American hegemony in global newsgathering.
But then Khanfar's replacement is a member of the Qatari royal family, which will hardly reestablish the network's reputation for scrappy autonomy. Khanfar's removal may have more to do with an old fashioned, monarchal attempt to bring the media to heel than with the power of newfangled, anarchic Wikileaks, according to Foreign Policy. Either way it's a tragedy, because for a while there Al Jazeera was the best telvised antidote to American jingoism available in the English language.
[Image: Khanfar via Joi Ito/Flickr]