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.
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.
Ghassan Ben Jeddo, who had been the head of the Beirut Bureau before resigning almost a year ago, said that Al Jazeera was biased in covering the Arab Spring, especially in Syria and Bahrain.
“I do believe that Al Jazeera and other channels were not balanced in dealing with the events,” he said. “For instance, with respect to the events in Syria and Bahrain, we started to invite guests from America who only criticize the regime in Syria and support the regime in Bahrain and persons who justify NATO intervention. This is unacceptable.”
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.”
A major Arab news corporation Al-Jazeera seems to be losing ground lately with key staff from its Beirut Bureau resigning.
The managing director, Producer and correspondent all walked, and one of them told press TV off camera that their main protest was a clear bias and lack of balance in covering stories in Bahrain and Syria.
Member of the Lebanese National Media Council says that these resignations reflect the anger of the people towards the policies of the network:
The Doha based TV Channel has been seen by experts as being not only financed, but also guided by the Qatari government in its policies.
The Qatari prince Hamad ben Khalifa Al-Thani and his Prime Minister Hamad ben Jassem have voiced their animosity towards the Syrian Government and President Bashar Assad, calling on the Arab league and the United Nations to send in troops and arms to assist the Syrian opposition militias in their operations inside Syria.
Most of Al-Jazeera’s airtime is focused on news pertaining to the armed opposition groups inside Syria, while almost ignoring Syria’s constitutional reform referendum, which saw a 57% turnout with around 90% voting for change.
Experts in the Media field say that it’s hard to stay neutral when you’re in a state of war, and that a media network is bound to be part of the polarization, yet that should not mean distorting facts:
Lebanese media figures have called on several influential Arab networks to be balanced in reporting all Arab uprisings including the Bahraini people’s call for change which Al-Jazeera has mainly ignored.
Since the first Arab uprising began in Tunisia, Al-Jazeera has considered itself as the advocate for the people’s uprisings and won the respect of many across the Arab world, yet lately many people especially in Lebanon believe it has been taking sides and as a result lost its credibility.
Television channels have turned into political parties, pushing the agenda for some outside forces, former Al Jazeera correspondent in Beirut, Ali Hashem, told RT. Hashem has come in spotlight after resigning from the television citing its bias.
In emails leaked by Syrian hackers, Ali Hashem vented his anger over Al Jazeera’s one-sided coverage of Syria and its refusal to cover the events in Bahrain. In an exclusive interview with RT, the former Beirut correspondent Hashem refrained from discussing his resignation, but stressed that these days, independent media is a myth.
“There is no independent media anymore. It is whose agenda is paying the money for the media outlet,” he said. “Politicization of media means that media outlets are today like political parties. Everyone is adopting a point of view, fight for it and bring all the tools and all the means they have in order to make it reach the biggest amount of viewers.”
It is now the job of the viewer to compare the news from several different sources and then make his own conclusions, the journalist believes. “Today we are in the era of open source information and everyone can reach whatever information he wants.”
Hashem said the problem with this picture is that some news outlets can reach bigger audiences than others. “What they say will [seem] to be a fact while it might not be the fact,” he said.
Mass media should be “immune” when it comes to war and conflict, as this guarantees freedom of speech, Ali Hashem believes.
“In the year 2006, Israel bombarded Al-Manar television because they said Al- Manar was doing propaganda war against Israel,” he said. “Al-Manar was on one side of this war and they were supporting the Hezbollah and the resistance and the war against Israel. But does this give Israel the excuse to bombard Al-Manar? Certainly not.”
“We should as journalists, whatever our point of view is, (because it is clear there is no independent journalism anymore) have the right to say whatever he wants safely, without being threatened to be bombarded or killed or executed or arrested,” Hashem concluded.
Al Jazeera has recently suffered an exodus of key staff members from its Beirut Bureau: correspondent Ali Hashem, managing director Hassan Shaaban and producer Mousa Ahmad.
The professionals cited bias in the channel’s coverage of the Arab Spring, especially the events in Syria and Bahrain, as the reason for their departures.
Some mainstream news channels have been recently caught carrying dubious footage from Syria. It fuels the debate over media’s role in legitimizing possible military intervention in the country.
’Danny’ is a Syrian opposition activist who reports from Homs for CNN, BBC, Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya. He is attached to the opposition movement and regularly calls for military invasion of Syria. He’s identified as Danny Abdul Dayem, a 22-year-old British citizen of Syrian origin.
In a video leaked online, Danny appears to be falsifying a video broadcast for CNN. Prior to going on air, he requests colleagues to fire weapons to dramatize his Live report with Anderson Cooper. Though he denied any wrongdoings in an interview to CNN after the video went viral, his reliability as a verified news source was called into question.
Danny is far from being a lone soldier in an increasingly dirty information war. Investigative journalist Rafik Lotf has spent months looking at the background to footage that has helped shaped global opinion on the conflict. He told RT that Al Jazeera is involved in video fabrication to discredit the Syrian regime and cites a video described by Al Jazeera as proof Syrian Govt forces had bombed an oil pipeline.
“I know this video is on the Al Jazeera server. It is clear it is not an explosion but they ignore that and keep on reporting on the way they need to see it,” he said.
It is even thought that the clip may have been staged by rebels who blew up the pipeline themselves, as alleged on Infowars.com.
Dark turns in Syria’s blame game
All Journalists admit that verifying footage on the ground in Syria is difficult, nigh on impossible.
Most recently shocking footage emerged of some 47 bodies, including women and children found with their throats slit, bearing stab wounds and signs of rape. The opposition called for a UNSC emergency meeting on ‘the massacre’.
Assad’s government, in turn, announced that ‘terrorist gangs’ killed those in the video and claimed Homs’ residents recognized relatives among the dead, who had been previously kidnapped by the Syrian rebels.
As the mutual blame game spirals downwards and civilian suffering continues, the recent resignations of key Al Jazeera journalists may serve as a clear indicator — that some mainstream Syria conflict coverage is far from objective.
Armed groups are committing crime against innocent civilians and with the help of certain media are changing the truth to make believe that the Syrian Arab Army is committing those murders.
Mohammad Ammar al-Mustafa a twelve years old boy was murdered by armed groups in Murk a small town in Hamah. After his death armed groups attacked his place, prevented his mother and family members from going into his room and started filming what was shown on media later on as a crime done by the Syrian Army.
Mohammad was killed because his mother was able to collect 33,000 signatures against conspiracy; she was threatened every day, the day she decided to leave Hama for the safety of her family they killed Mohammad.
Mohammad is not the only case where such acts happen. Few months earlier another kid named Sary was murdered by the armed groups, and again they accused the Army of killing him. Later on Sary’s mother told the press that her son was murdered by the armed men.
This is a small example on how armed groups are attempting murders. Experts say their schemes will not succeed without the help of certain media.
Hezbollah has accused the U.S. embassy in Lebanon of overseeing the infiltration, armament and operations against Syria.
Sheikh Qaouq also lashed out at the March 14th coalition saying that they are arming, financing and overseeing the attacks against Syria through the Lebanese Syrian border.
The March 14th denies such claims saying its activities in northern Lebanon is for humanitarian purposes to help the Syrian people who have taken refuge there.
Deputy head of Hezbollah’s Executive Council said pro-U.S. Arabs backed out of their slogans and plots against Syria and agreed with Russia on a new initiative.
Hezbollah has described the U.S. embassy in Lebanon as “a military operations room against Syria.” now, analysts believe that the US embassy does have a history of intelligence work aimed at Beirut and Damascus, and despite its recent claim to have refused to arm the Syrian opposition, it has been financing this group even before the unrest began in Syrian a year ago.
Former Lebanese Minister Michel Samaha told press TV that the visits of Michael G. Vickers, US under secretary of defense for intelligence to Beirut shows that the US embassy is in a war of espionage with Syria.
Since the unrest began percolating in Syria in mid-March last year, several reports have suggested that arms were being smuggled from Lebanon into Syria to support the opposition. Some Arab countries such as Qatar have called on the UN to send arms to the opposition groups.
However, the UN seems to be brokering a political solution, which could be backed by Russia, a main critic of US policies in the Middle East.
The escape of the armed Syrian terrorists to Lebanon and also smuggling weapons to Syria is still a matter of concern.
US ambassador to Lebanon Maura Connelly had earlier asked Lebanese officials not to track the Syrian armed escapees.
Some Lebanese officials have opposed the policies of the US and asserted that they cannot allow another “Ashraf Camp” to come into existence in Northern Lebanon.
To justify its illegal acts, Israel has also announced that it has sold a huge cache of weapons to Qatar, however the Qatari government has reportedly delivered them to Syrian opposition forces without informing Israel about it.
Meanwhile, the Syrian army found in Homs a very advanced operation room in which the terrorists, linked to foreign sources, were using modern satellite and communication devices. During the operation they gathered information on the activities of this west-controlled operation room.
A large number of Israeli made weapons were confiscated in Syria, as the Syrian army continues to restore order and security especially in Homs and its countryside.
Based on the statements of Qatari and Saudi officials, it seems that the both countries, just like the US and other European states, are keen to see more violence in Syria, away from a peaceful solution for the crisis, as foreign backed armed men continue to destabilize the country.