Al-Jazeera’s political independence questioned amid Qatar intervention

The Guardian reports: Al-Jazeera’s editorial independence has been called into question after its director of news stepped in to ensure a speech made by Qatar’s emir to the UN led its English channel’s coverage of the debate on Syrian intervention.

Journalists had produced a package of the UN debate, topped with excerpts of President Obama’s speech, last Tuesday when a last-minute instruction came from Salah Negm, the Qatar-based news director, who ordered the video to be re-edited to lead with the comments from Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani.

Despite protests from staff that the emir’s comments – a repetition of previous calls for Arab intervention in Syria – were not the most important aspect of the UN debate, the two-minute video was re-edited and Obama’s speech was relegated to the end of the package.

There are hints at staff dissatisfaction within the film, available for viewing on al-Jazeera’s website and YouTube, which notes that the emir “represents one of the smallest countries in the Arab world … but Qatar has been one of the loudest voices condemning Syria”.

The episode left a bitter taste among staff amid complaints that this was the most heavy-handed editorial intervention at the global broadcaster, which has long described itself as operating independent of its Qatari ownership.

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