Al Jazeera Chief Steps Down, WikiLeaks Cables a Culprit?

By Alex Weprin 

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The director-general of Al Jazeera, Wadah Khanfar, has resigned after eight years leading the family of cable news channels. His resignation comes after U.S. diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks seem to indicate that Khanfar was willing to change editorial content at the request of U.S. authorities, as the AP notes:

The leaked U.S. diplomatic cable dated October 2010 indicated that Khanfar was in constant contact with the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency, responding to U.S. complaints of negative coverage and promising to tone down items on the station’s website. The cables referred to Qatari Ministry of Foreign Affairs as “MFA” which passed him some of the DIA reports.

Al-Jazeera said in a statement that Khanfar expressed his desire to resign in July, and that his replacement was arranged one month ago to “to ensure a smooth transition.” The statement did not refer to the leaked cable.

In an email to Al Jazeera staff, Khanfar said that the networks had no agenda:

“Al Jazeera gained the trust of its audience through consistently speaking truth to power, and channeling peoples’ aspirations for dignity and freedom. Our audience quickly saw that Al Jazeera was of them and their world – it was not a foreign imposition nor did it seek to impose a partisan agenda. We were trusted to be objective and to be the voice of the voiceless.

Al Jazeera’s new director is Sheik Ahmad bin Jasem bin Muhammad Al-Thani, a member of Qatar’s royal family and businessman. Al Jazeera is funded primarily by Qatar’s royal family.