Media CritiquesAn exclusive interview with a news editor of Al-Jazeera Channel By Interview with former Al Jazeera News EditorFriends of Syria WordpressSunday, Jan 6, 2013
Interview with a former journalist in the Qatari Al Jazeera
- Why were you fired from Al Jazeera?
- What kind of pressures were you exposed to?
- What happened when the Syrian Electronic Army penetrated Al Jazeera’s website?
- Were you linked to the Syrian Electronic Army before the penetration?
- Are the rumours about how the fabrications and lies are carried out by Al Jazeera true?
- What do you say to your colleagues in Al Jazeera?
- What do you say to the Syrian people?
Why were you fired from Al Jazeera?
Until this moment I do not know why I was fired but my political position and my constant refusal to engage in the policy of Al Jazeera regarding the coverage of the Syrian crisis likely contributed towards it. This is in addition to being critical of its narratives and distortions that were in opposition to the professional media standard it once followed which led to it being ranked amongst international channels.
The dismissal letter did not mention any specific reason! It only terminated my contract according to the employment terms and came in the wake of my explicit refusal to prepare Syrian news as well as several penetrations by the Syrian Electronic Army and others who loved the truth and their homeland.
The letter was directed as being immediately applicable despite the perfect record I maintained throughout nearly a decade, during which I did not get any penalty and was promoted many times confirming my professionalism. It seemed however that the institution of “the opinion and the other opinion” did not count amongst the ranks of those who took the initiative to terminate my contract after various penetrations which revealed Al Jazeera’s transformation into a tool of incitement and support for terrorist acts in my country.
What kind of pressures were you exposed to?
According to me, the first pressure was to cover the Syrian crisis itself, including Al Jazeera’s campaign of fraud from its onset. Upon my protest and criticism as well as my attempts to correct their policy, the reply was these were “individual errors” that should be overlooked. However, the succession of these “errors” showed that the network was not abandoning its method which were commanded by Qatari officials without a doubt.
Some of my colleagues and I were trying to identify and clarify the facts since we were from Syria and we know it more than most of the other workers who were from varied nationalities and levels of knowledge about the region. The discussions were more like fights except for some people whose conscience was still intact.
There was pressure from officials to push me to participate in the Syrian news coverage and preparation, but I repeatedly refused to do so alongside a number of colleagues to the resentment and annoyance of the management team.
One of the officials attempted to force me to write about Syria but I rejected his orders because they would edit and interfere with my work in a manner that the administration wanted. I believe this was the straw that broke the camel’s back and I was asked to resign.
The peer pressure from the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, and they were many of them there, was almost daily. Various provocations and dealings were unworthy of the so-called “carriers of the banner of freedom” to the extent that it came to the threat of physical liquidation only due to my opinion that was in opposition of their extremism. Their talk was hatefully sectarian and they always spoke of the desire to change the government of Syria by substituting themselves for it.
I still remember their demands “announce your position, the boat is sinking” and their threats “thank your god if you get a pardon when we become the government”, “the majority is with the Muslim brotherhood and governance is within our grasp”.
They would prophesise to other colleagues since the first month of the near collapse of the Syrian government. Their language was disgusting. They said that civil unrest would begin in the coast, Hama and Homs, and that their “democratic” system entitled murder based on sect and identity.
When confronted about their distortion of facts, they would wave it away with abhorrent sectarianism. As an example, there was a video clip which has become infamous for its intensity and horror. It was a video of slaughtered people’s corpses being thrown off the Orontes River and was presented as being people killed by the army and “Shabiha” throwing them.
I have made it clear to the officials at the time that those bodies were dressed in military uniforms and those who threw them were cursing the army. How could they flip the truth like that? An official was upset with the Muslim brothers who acknowledged fraud and answered, that it was “ok” as the soldiers deserved to be slaughtered due to their sect. I then replied to the administrator for him that he was lying yet again and that everybody knows that the Syrian Arab Army consists of all communities and all the men who are eighteen years would enlist so that almost every family in Syria had sons in the army.”
What happened when the Syrian Electronic Army penetrated Al Jazeera’s website?
Do you mean what happened or what didn’t happen? I knew it was simply a complete paralysis that confused management for hours, especially when management had paid enormous amounts of money generously to a security support company that suffered many short comings and flaws that all workers knew about. There were previous attempts to penetrate the system such that the department began to disable images in articles, to the degree that administrators stopped taking the company seriously. The next blow was fatal came when Syrian Electronic Army managed to post their messages on the site, disabling it from functioning at all to the confusion of officials and the support company.
I also knew that as a result of that the internet was blocked in spite the journalistic work tied to it and the restriction of the internet to a limited set of equipment. As well as that, all the passwords were changed via a personal request to the support company. Also, all of the staff were asked to change the password to their email addresses every month and that it should contain symbols, letters and numbers so that it is not easily penetrated and such penetration would fall under penalty of perjury, which has not happened in the history of the channel.
Were you linked to the Syrian Electronic Army before the penetration?
No, I had nothing to do with the Syrian Electronic Army before the penetration of Al Jazeera despite my admiration for the existence of people like this in my country. I tried to respect the company that I worked for as well as the professional code of honour that they ignored though I did not want to.
After I finished my contractual obligations with the channel, I started cooperation with the Syrian Electronic Army, the fruit of it which was the breakthrough of the Al Jazeera mobile broadcast system sending messages to the subscribers about a country attacking Syria similar to the “sincerity” of those broadcast by Al Jazeera about my own. There was also an attempt to hack Al Jazeera’s news ticker in the same manner.
Are the rumours about how the fabrications and lies are carried out by Al Jazeera true?
Sadly, yes. The channel started instigation and ‘revolutionizing’ through the broadcast of video footage from Yemen and Iraq and other countries to stir the emotions of Syrians and play with their affection. When we tried to point out this, we were either ignored or told that it was an individual mistake. However, it turned out that this is a trend and that there is a well-drawn plan. The fake footages kept coming, from the funny ones, the sad ones and the one who had living dead (that one showed a group of people praying for two persons presumably dead but are seen later on a motorbike!). Demonstrations around the famous clock in Homs turned out to be in Qatar; this latter fabrication was debunked by friends who love their country, could spot the clock, film it and send it to one of our channels.
When it comes to the eye witnesses who used to describe things as if they were inside Syria and close to the events, their phone numbers were from Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the United Kingdom and other countries. The webmaster of the website had to correct news based on the comments and the mockery of the website’s visitors concerning the claims of the ‘eyewitnesses’, that were so contradictory a small child would not believe them. The channel’s administration had to filter what the eyewitnesses said before going live. Indoctrinating was performed as well which is not surprising since the person responsible of the Syrian file in the channel is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood.
The special design for the ‘Syrian revolution’ page on the web contained a picture of a previous demonstration which had a banner that said ‘Long live the President’. The banner was tampered with by removing the writing, putting something else in and then used ‘innocently’ by the channel.
The slogan ‘the view and the other view’ disappeared and the motto of credibility and neutrality balanced to one side while explicitly ignoring the other side. Professionalism has become non-existent and this is what we made sure of previously. The fall of the media has become imminent.
Yes, Al-Jazeera has lied and is still lying. The proof is in the successive resignations, dismissals and… especially of important figures like the director of the Al-Jazeera bureau in Beirut Ghassan Ben Jeddo and the reporter Ali Hashem, who dared and spoke the truth about the presence of armed men from the very beginning, which made the administration go berserk and got revenge from whoever gave him the opportunity to appear on TV.
And amongst the important dismissals was the director of the news Hassan Shawky, known for his journalistic and professional aptitudes, worked for around 15 years at the channel and was asked to leave Qatar in 48 hours!
This approach reaches all the administrative bodies of the channel. It included the website where journalists Oday Johnny and Rou’aa Zaher were dismissed without any reason but their refusal to the blemishing of the channel and the extremism of the Muslim Brotherhood, the latter controlling the Syrian file at Al-Jazeera.
And last but not least of the resigned is the director of the Berlin bureau Aktham Sleiman, a Syrian, who was, at the beginning, with the opposition. He voiced his opinion from the beginning with the Syrian anchor woman Rola Ibrahim. However, and according to a trusted co-worker, he resigned after he saw the anxiety, lies and despicable sectarianism that Rola herself was a victim of since the very beginning, despite her protesting again it via messages on the ‘Topak’ system, used by Al-Jazeera employees, but to no avail.
An administrator with a conscience told me before I left: we haven’t only lost credibility, professionalism and impartiality but we also lost conscience and humanity
What do you say to your colleagues in Al Jazeera?
I say to my colleagues on Al Jazeera and in all media, fear God and the blood and suffering of the Syrian people, words can kill. I know that the vast majority of them are in search for a living and a better place and that many knew the truth and saw through the channel practices, but were helpless. Shake your consciences for your involvement in the bloodshed in my country. God will one day ask you what you have done.
What do you say to the Syrian people?
I say to my fellow Syrian nationals, the truth will prevail and falsehood will die soon, God willing. Yes we do deserve a better future, but no one should convince themselves that the west and its tools wanted a good future for Syria. The coming alternative does not carry any democracy but blood
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