Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

Will the ABC and SBS ignore mounting allegations against Al Jazeera?

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Back in June 2014 - shortly before Australian journalist Peter Greste was convicted by Egypt on trumped up charges seemingly aimed at punishing his employer, Al Jazeera, for supporting the Muslim Brotherhood - I published a blog showing how Al Jazeera had made a clear provocation aimed at Egypt that could only inflame tensions and jeopardise the fate of its journalists on trial.

At the time, Andrew Bolt called attention to my unique research on his popular blog.

Now jailed Al Jazeera journalist Mohamed Fahmy, by suing his employer earlier this month for negligence and supporting blacklisted Islamists in Egypt, has highlighted what AIJAC has been saying all along - that Al Jazeera, as a politicised tool of the Qatari monarchy, bears considerable responsibility for the misfortunes of their journalists in Egypt.

Moreover, Fahmy's allegations is not the only report of journalistic impropriety coming out of Al Jazeera in recent days. As evidence continues to mount showing that Al Jazeera's management pushes a political agenda - particularly regarding events in the Middle East, the burning question remains: Why do taxpayer funded public broadcasters ABC and SBS continue to use Al Jazeera as a source of reporting from this region, especially concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and disregarding their own statutory obligations of impartiality?

The ABC covered the Fahmy lawsuit in a story on its website as well as on The World Today.

The ABC itself pulled out some of Fahmy's most damaging comments against Al Jazeera for a series of pull-quotes to illustrate the story:

"I am suing Al Jazeera because they deceived us, they were negligent and they lied to us and they need to pay for hurting me and my team."
"Just two weeks ago in the cage, me and Baher (Mohamed) were shocked to see the prosecutor present documents proving that Al Jazeera did not have the proper transmission and broadcast licenses - that is unacceptable."
"This network lied to us about our legal situation... you trust them and you start believing in them and you assume, that they're taking care of business. Well they weren't. And they will pay the price now."
"I know it will help my case in Egypt and I also know that it will help get the message to Al Jazeera to better protect their journalists. I work for CNN, BBC and other reputable networks and I've never seen a network ignore the security of their staff the way that this network did."
"Freedom of the press is not just a responsibility of government, the networks are also obliged to not take sides. And in this case Al Jazeera Arabic not just took sides and became biased, they were sponsors of the Muslim Brotherhood. And I will make sure that they pay the price for endangering our lives."
"Unfortunately Al Jazeera is partially responsible for our detention and they need to recognise that and they will pay for their mistakes."

 

Yet Fahmy is not the only journalist to accuse Al Jazeera of wrongdoing against its journalists.

In the US, several prominent journalists at Al Jazeera America have quit their jobs, citing all sorts of workplace intimidation. On April 27, Matthew Luke, formerly the network's director of media and archive management, filed a lawsuit in New York Supreme Court against Al Jazeera America claiming wrongful termination. His allegations centred on politicised, racist and sexist behaviour by his boss, Osman Mahmud.

As the New York Times reported:

In the suit, Mr. Luke asserted that Mr. Mahmud mistreated female employees and exhibited anti-Semitic behavior, including expressing a desire to replace an Israeli cameraman with a Palestinian. A female senior vice president who resisted fulfilling that request was later transferred to another position, the lawsuit says. The suit further claims that Mr. Mahmud said that "whoever supports Israel should die a fiery death in hell."

Meanwhile, on May 8, it was reported that US authorities have placed Al Jazeera's Islamabad bureau chief, Ahmad Muaffaq Zaidan, on a watch list of suspected terrorists, linking him to al-Qaeda, citing documents provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

With evidence mounting of improprieties by Al Jazeera's management, particularly that which implicates Al Jazeera in promoting political aims under the guise and cover of journalism, there is a strong case to suggest that ABC and SBS should suspend their use of Al Jazeera broadcasts and reports in its news programs and reassess its relationship with the Qatari network pending further investigation into these allegations. There are plenty of alternative sources of reporting that Australia's public broadcasters can avail themselves of in the meantime.

Ahron Shapiro