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Thursday, October 21, 2021

Al Jazeera employees complain of editorial bias with Egypt coverage



As the Qatar-based Al Jazeera Media Network struggles to stay on air in Egypt, it is also coping with conflicts over its Cairo coverage at home.

Over the past few weeks, the network’s coverage of what’s happening in Egypt has led to significant divisions among staffers across multiple channels, leading to allegations of bias, resignations and the removal of a prominent newsreader from live news broadcasts, employees have told Doha News.

Al Jazeera is funded by Qatar, which has strong ties with the Muslim Brotherhood. According to some senior employees, that relationship has biased editorial policy when it comes to covering the Egypt crisis, which began after the military ousted President Muhammad Morsi in July.

Lambasting the network for its “one-sided reporting,” Egyptian government officials have been working to pull the plug on Al Jazeera’s Mubasher Misr (Egypt Live) channel.

While trying to cover the conflict there, Al Jazeera staffers have also had their offices raided, been detained and eventually, deportedIn the latest turn of events, authorities appear to be jamming the broadcaster’s satellite frequencies.

Newsroom woes

Meanwhile, discontent over Al Jazeera’s Egypt coverage is also growing within the organization, which has seen multiple resignations in recent months.

Just last week, four journalists working for Al Jazeera Arabic (AJA) and its Egypt affiliate submitted their resignations in protest against the channel’s policies last week, Gulf News reports. Previously, 22 members of the Mubasher Misr channel had resigned over what they called biased coverage. 

Inside Al Jazeera English (AJE), concerns of bias center around the removal of senior news presenter Jane Dutton on Aug. 14, following an interview with a member of the Muslim Brotherhood.

According to AJE staffers who spoke to Doha News on the condition of anonymity, the channel’s executive producer Hani El Konayyesi pulled Dutton off air mid-bulletin because she asked questions that he felt cast the Muslim Brotherhood in a negative light. One former employee said:

“First she asked – ‘Since you know that there is going to be military action, have you considered removing the women and children from the square?’

“The second question was about guns. She said – ‘We’ve heard from our sources and from various correspondents on the ground, that members of the Muslim Brotherhood have been seen with weapons. Is this true?’

Another member of staff described what happened next:

“She (Dutton) was given a dressing down, publicly, behind the glass walls of an office in the newsroom. They tried to make out that someone of Jane’s experience had forgotten her journalistic integrity in the excitement of it all.”

Dutton, who declined to be interviewed for this article, is currently presenting on Al Jazeera’s Inside Story, the news channel’s in-depth current affairs discussion program. She has not yet been rostered to return to news shifts.

It’s understood that many of AJE’s senior management staff were out of the country at the time of the incident, as they were in the US launching Al Jazeera America (AJAM).

Two further allegations related to institutional bias have been made by Al Jazeera English staff. These are:

  • That several presenters were “moved around” the rota on short notice on the day of Dutton’s removal, to make way for inexperienced presenters who allegedly had more favorable views towards the Muslim Brotherhood; and
  • That staff have felt uncomfortable about the number of days that the situation in Egypt has been at the top of the news agenda, even when they felt the story didn’t warrant it.

Al Jazeera declined to comment on the complaints, but told Doha News that they are being handled internally.


Credit: Photo by Osama Saeed

Note: This article has been corrected to reflect the name of AJE’s executive producer.

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