Ex Director General of Al Jazeera, Wadah Khanfar, came to City University this evening for the annual memorial of the late James Cameron (journalist).
Khanfar resigned from his post at Al Jazeera on September 20 after eight years in charge.
Here is a summary of what he said:
- With speculation that Al Jazeera could lose its impartiality now that it is being taken over by a member of the Qatari royal family, Khanfar said (I’m paraphrasing): ‘People aren’t stupid, if the coverage changes they will know and complain – maybe even stop watching the channel. What Al Jazeera have achieved in 15 years could be wiped out in 15 days.’
- He also spoke of the importance of the next generation of journalists. He said they should do everything to protect themselves from being ‘hijacked from corporations and politicians.’
- He also criticised America for their failings in Iraq. He said America have failed to understand the culture and history in Iraq. ‘They’ve [America] made so many mistakes because of their ignorance and their inability to understand Iraq.’ He talked about the country’s rich history and how centuries ago, it thrived in a time that the West was lagging behind in terms of prosperity and development.
- Khanfar was asked about Al Jazeera’s alleged lack of coverage in Bahrain. He said: ‘We were the first to report in Bahraini streets. We followed the story until the Bahraini rulers kicked us out.’ He also said: ‘The story of Bahrain was never as important as as other Arab countries.’ He cited that whereas in Libya where there was military interference and it became a international conflict, Bahrain never had the same sort of urgency. Furthermore, the demonstrations weren’t continuous but stopped and started.
- One of the more interesting things he said was that: ‘there are people who don’t want the Arab spring to reach its destination.’ Meaning that those who have protested across the Middle East and North Africa have done so to achieve freedom and democracy. But democracy in some countries, of course, wouldn’t suit the interests of certain countries.