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Al Jazeera exodus: Channel losing staff over ‘bias’ about Syria

Key staff from Al Jazeera’s Beirut Bureau have resigned citing “bias” in the channel’s stance on the conflict in Syria. Bureau Managing Director Hassan Shaaban reportedly quit last week, after his correspondent and producer had walked out in protest

12 March 2012

Employees of the English-language satellite news channel Al Jazeera work in the control room in Doha February 7, 2011 (Reuters / Fadi Al-Assaad)

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. "… 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],” a source told Lebanese press.

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.”

There is the courage of these journalists, however, in saying ‘Look, this is not the way we should be covering this. There are elements of Al-Qaeda in there,’” Rattansi concluded. “The way Al Jazeera Arabic has covered the story of Syria is completely one-sided.”

Journalists 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.”

Russia Today , 12 March, 2012.