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Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Al Jazeera boss steps down after eight years at the top

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After 8 years of service leading Al Jazeera, I have just announced that I am moving on.

— Wadah Khanfar, director general of the Al Jazeera Network, tweeted his departure.

Moment later, Moeed Ahmed, head of Al Jazeera’s New Media division, tweeted this:

@moeed: The empty chair of the DG of Al Jazeera post resignation http://lockerz.com/s/140397513

Initial reaction online was one of surprise, as no reason was given.

@abuardvark: Khanfar’s resignation as director of al-Jazeera is big news and kind of comes out of nowhere — trying to find out more.

Khanfar met with Al Jazeera staff after the announcement.

@abdu: Wadah Khanfar tells AJ staff about why he resigned and what next #aljazeera http://twitpic.com/6nsnaf

Ahmed bin Jasim Al Thani is reportedly Khanfar’s replacement, due to start tomorrow.

In his resignation note, Khanfar says:

For sometime I have been discussing my desire to step down with the Chairmanof the Board. He has kindly expressed understanding and has accepted my decision.

Read the full letter to staff on Foreign Policy.

A quick search for the new director general’s name brings up a LinkedIn profile for the Chief Operating Officer at Qatar Gas – a connection corroborated by some “insiders”. His name would also indicate he is a member of the Qatari royal family.

Says Middle East analyst Marc Lynch:

@abuaardvark: If new Al Jazeera head is from Qatari royal family it’s going to impact perception of independence of AJ from Qatari foreign policy.

Some were quick to speculate that Khanfar’s decision to resign was linked to the controversy generated by the WikiLeaks cables I wrote about earlier.

@talal_rafi: @dohanews Al Jazeera DG Wadah resigns today from AJE! not surprising after wiki cables. Probably got a better offer at FOX news!

But that seems an unlikely claim, given that his replacement is unlikely to bolster confidence in the channel, and that there was no smoking gun in the leaked cables. Says Marc Lynch:

@abuaardvark: I’m skeptical that Khanfar resignation driven by the Wikileaks — wasn’t really much there @tarawnah @MRoyer3 goo.gl/AQCAq

A glimpse at Al Jazeera’s new boss, from Zaid Benajmin:

Khanfar started at Al Jazeera’s Arabic news channel as a South Africa analyst and correspondent, before covering Afghanistan and the Iraq war, and then rapidly ascending to the top post.

It remains unclear what – if any – journalism or news experience Al Jazeera’s second-ever director general brings, but Al Jazeera staff remain upbeat:

@abdu: @sareemakdisi @avinunu not really. AJ is a huge organization with journalists from around the world, no state can control that.


Correction: This article previously referred to the new director general as a former government minister. This information proved erroneous, and has been removed.

Credit: Top photo of Wadah Khanfar by Joi Ito and released under Creative Commons

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