Foreword The more than 100 personal accounts featured in this book tell the story of Al Jazeera. Together, they serve as a record of the key moments and milestones in its 25-year journey; shed light on behind-the- scenes events and offer the reader a glimpse into the experiences, challenges and even tribulations of the people behind it – from the decision-makers to the field reporters. This book walks the reader through Al Jazeera’s history, from the launch of its Arabic news channel 25 years ago to the evolution of its multiple channels and platforms in other languages and regions. Along the way, it offers snippets of the challenges faced by its founders as well as the human stories and first-hand accounts of its journalists in various parts of the world. In each account the reader will encounter Al Jazeera’s core values. From telling the human story to centring an openness to other cultures without discrimination and keeping abreast of the latest professional and technical advancements, these are the values that have enabled the Network to achieve its leading position within the media industry. Moreover, this book sheds light on the Network’s growth and expansion and allows independent thinkers, politicians and media professionals to express their views on the role played by Al Jazeera in cementing the industry’s professional ethics. In brief, it represents a new endeavour to unearth ‘Al Jazeera’s secret’; to exhibit what it has offered to humanity as well as to the media industry. In it, Al Jazeera shares its own story as told by its own journalists and decision-makers on its 25th anniversary. Supervising Committee
Al Jazeera Tells its Story: Diaries from the Field Supervising
Dr. Mostefa Souag
Dr. Salah Eddin Elzein
Dr. Ezzeddine Abdelmoula
Editor-in-Charge Sameer Al Shamaileh Editors
Mohamad Sidi Baba
Dr. Lhaj Mohamed Nasik
Translator Mustafa Barakat
Copy Editor Carla Bower Designers
Tamader Al Mannai
Images & Illustrations AJMN Archive Agencies Printing Agencies QATAR NATIONAL PRINTING PRESS Views and opinions are those of their authors and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policy of AJMN It is prohibited to use, save, copy, reproduce, publish or circulate this Book or any parts hereof in any way, shape or form without prior written authorisation from AJMN QR code link to related video.
© 2021 AJMN - All Rights Reserved
Sheikh Hamad bin Thamer Al-Thani Al Jazeera: A Unique Path 14 Ahmad bin Salem Al-Yafei Al Jazeera: Much More Than Just a Building ٢٤ Ahmed Mahfouz As Rare As Hen’s Teeth 32 Mohammed Jasim Al Ali Al Jazeera: A Wise Vision, A Noble Endeavour ٤٦ Jaafar Abbas November’s Good Tidings
HE Ahmed bin Jassim Al Thani A Short Stint at the Helm ٣٨ Giles Trendle Al Jazeera and the Story of Our Time ٢٦ Dr. Hamad Al-Kawari Al Jazeera: A Single Ray of Hope Amidst Darkness 16
Tariq Dodic Al Jazeera: Dr. Mostefa Souag Impartiality and Truth in Media ٢٠
Fatima Triki Just About 25
Barbara Serra The Paradigm- breaker
Phil Rees & Sarah Yeo When Al Jazeera Makes a Difference 90 Mohamed Alkabeer Alkatbi Darfur Violence: ‘No Escape’ 78
Diarmuid Jeffreys Forgotten Heroes Khalid Saleh Floating on Cloud Nine for 23 Years 82
Leyla Elchekhly Indelible Memories and Milestones Ibrahim Hamdan Al Jazeera’s Investigative Programmes: An Eye Opener 86
Ripe But Ageless 30
Wadah Khanfar Eternal Spring
Saad Al Saeedi Al Jazeera Won’t Bow to Pressure Nassir Abdulhaq A Journey into the Land of Mysteries ١١٤ Folly Bah Thibault Finding A Common Ground in Fighting to End Sexual Violence ١٠٢
Adnan Al Sharif
Asef Hamidi Living Life to the Letter
Zaur Sheozh Sacrifice Without Regret Rebecca Brown Abed In The Thick of the Fray ١٠٦
Zeinebou Bent Erebih A Feast of Democracy Ruined 122 Abdulazim Mohamad Unfolding Turkey’s Failed Coup ١١٢
Taysir Alony Al Jazeera’s Treasure Trove Al Jazeera - A Divine Idea ٥٠
Fawzi Bushra A Castaway’s Treasure Chest
Waleed Ibrahim Iraq’s Wonder Woman in Her 70s
Nazih El Ahdab Striking the Wrong Note
Hadeel Al Yamani Defying Oblivion
Haitham Owit Children of Bentiu
Hibattalla Morgan On the Verge of Death ١٩٤
Gamal Al-Moliky The Last Lunch Qatar World Cup, The First Ever in the Arab World 134
130 Salam Hindawi
Mayada Abdo The Kandake Revolution Shayma Zhou YiYi Wuhan: An Indelible Mark ١٥8 Mahmoud Al-Ken & Fidelius Schmid A Manhunt for Assad’s Shabihas ١٤٦
Katrina Michelle Yu
Najwan Simri Not By Right, But By Might Amanda Burrell A Mission to Heal Our Planet 202 214 Ahmed Husam Eulogising a Friend On Air 226 Ahmed Fadel Witnessing the Birth of a Revolution 2٣6
Ali Rae The Magic of Algorithms
No Fortress Impregnable
Drew Ambrose Selling Out Paradise 210 Stefanie Dekker Qatar’s Wildlife Treasures 222 Horia El Hadad Little Pieces in an Enormous Puzzle In a Country of 1.4 Billion People, No Individual Forgotten ١٩٨
١٣٨ Laila Al-Arian Unheard But Not Forgotten ١٥٠ Rania Halaby A Journalist ‘In Cahoots’ 162 Mina Harballou Israel: Occupation, Piracy and More
Fadi Mansour If Trump’s Tree Falls in a Forest’ Collapsed, Our Resolve Hasn’t ١٥4 Wael Dahdouh The Tower
Mohamed Al Najar Black Thursday in Aleppo 228 FarahAlzaman Shawki Pilgrimage to a Battleground 2٣8 Evrosimoska A Bloody Night in Parliament 218 Maja Blaževska
Kristen Saloomey Whose Streets? Our Streets! ١٧٨
Naser Shadid My Dinner with ISIL
Mariam Oubaiche Losing an Eye, But not Losing Sight 244 Ehab El Okady Beirut’s Bloody Explosion 2٥4 Aissa Taibi The No.1 Refugee ٢٦٦ Mohammed Jamjoom A Lifetime of Suffering ٢78 Elizabeth Divya Puranam The Maharashtra Drought: Telling the Untold Stories ٢88
Nicolas Haque Al Jazeera: A Symphony of Life Dr. Mohammed Al-Hemyari Al Jazeera: A Lifeline for Millions 282 Jelena Glusac Amidst the Hell that is Moria, Life Flourishes ٢٧٠ Sharon Roobol Exposing Social Injustice Under Lucia Newman Pain and Abandonment in Venezuela 248 Malaysia’s Lockdown 258
Abdelkader Damiche A Mosaic
Marin Veršić Nino Čučić The Petrinja Earthquake 300 Ahmed Al Fahad A Real Story Behind Success 314 Mounir Daymi All Roads Lead to Al Jazeera 324 Renee Odeh Palestine: A Story of Survival ٣٣٢ Wang Meiping Al Jazeera in Mandarin
Amr Halabi Aleppo - The Last Farewell
Hassan Masoud The Morales Paradox 308 Sami Al-Haj Agony in Guantanamo’s Darkest Cell 320
Alessandro Rampietti Al Jazeera Tells the Untold Side of the Story ٢٧٤ John Holman Taco With Bullets ٢٥٢ Biesan Abu- Kwaik The Long Thorny Road to Justice ٢٦٢
Youns Ait Yassin Al Jazeera: A Window of Light and Truth ٣٤٨ The Myth of the ‘Fourth Estate’ ٣٣6 Dr. Mohammed Al Khalil Giant Leaps Forward 326 Salah Eddin Elzein Al Jazeera: Pride and Privilege 316 Mahmoud Hussein
Dr. Osama Abuelrub Al Jazeera: An Example to Follow ٣٥٢ Nusayba Mousa Unforgettable Stories, Indelible Memories ٣٤٠ Feras Al-Suliti Technical Operations, the Network’s Beating Heart 32٨
Fiona Lawson- Baker Our Oscar Campaign: St. Louis Superman 296
Mohamed Sidi Al Jazeera ‘Wasn’t Built in A Day’
Adel Ksiksi Every Picture Tells A Story
Dr. Ali Al Qaradaghi Mustafa Barakat The Sword of Damocles 36٤
Dr. Moncef Marzouki Al Jazeera: History Witness, History Maker 368
P.J. Crowley Al Jazeera: A Global Bridge
Free Speech in Holy Scripture 374 Dr. Nigel Baker Al Jazeera & Thomson Foundation: An Enduring Union of Skills and Experience 382
372 Jack Kingston At Al Jazeera: ‘Agreeing to differ’ in a Family-like Environment 380 Aidan White Making A World of Difference: How Human Rights Shape the Al Jazeera Story 390
Dr. Roxane Farmanfarmaian TheUniversity of Cambridge&Al Jazeera: AUniquePartnership 376 Gunnar Dedio Al Jazeera Documentary Meets LOOKSfilm 386
Al Jazeera: A Unique Path
Some of the stories recounted in this book are known to us, and time has come for them to be known to all, in order for them to stand – as they did to us - as an inspiration to fellow journalists and all those who champion the cause of freedom. Other equally-valuable and inspirational stories were not included in the book, either because their tellers have left our world, or did not have the chance to, or simply because these stories undermine the safety of some of those living under the brunt of authoritarian regimes which are enemies to freedom of expression. Al Jazeera has courageously survived against all odds. This would not have been possible without the unshakable faith of its journalists and their commitment to its unbiased approach: “the opinion and the other opinion.” Today, we present this book not only to commemorate some of the success stories of our journalists, but also to renew our pledge to our audience worldwide: “as we have remained steadfast to our human values for a quarter of a century, we will – God willing - remain committed for decades to come.”
Al Jazeera: A Unique Path Sheikh Hamad bin Thamer Al-Thani | Chairman of the Board
Like a single ray of light amid a vast darkness, Al Jazeera was born into the global media landscape a quarter of a century ago. Year after year, Al Jazeera has reached into more countries, speaking to different peoples in their various tongues. It became the most prominent phenomenon in the media industry in the early decades of the new century. Al Jazeera’s journey to success was not short or easy; nor was the road strewn with roses. From day one, Al Jazeera’s objective coverage enraged many; and as a result, it was not only demonised, but it was also attacked with many false accusations.
Al Jazeera’s offices were raided and, on some occasions, bombarded; its journalists were arbitrarily arrested and faced kangaroo court trials; and some were killed in the line of duty. With undented resolve, Al Jazeera has for 25 years braved the storm. All the way through, the key to Al Jazeera’s triumph has been: a journalist telling the story with humanity, in depth and with balance. As a result, the audience found their calling in Al Jazeera, which has become their main source of accurate information, their main means to knowledge and their main channel to freedom of expression.
This book is simply the tip of the iceberg; as it offers snippets of a rich legacy in the Arab and global arena, and one of the most successful media enterprises in the Arab region by all measures. What makes this book special is that what it contains goes beyond the personal narrative – it is a summary of the interaction between Al Jazeera’s journalists and their surroundings as they cover the unfolding events. It is the product of a pure human experience from a unique perspective. It is an exclusive replay of this period in modern history.
Al Jazeera: A Single Ray of Hope
Al Jazeera: A Single Ray of Hope Amidst Darkness Dr. Hamad Bin Abdulaziz AL-Kawari Vice Chairman & Managing Director
Whenever I think of Al Jazeera, Plato’s Cave comes to mind. ‘Has Al Jazeera, since its inception, only changed the Arab media landscape; or broken our thinking patterns?’ The question has remained in the back of my mind till this day. Plato had Socrates explain how the philosopher is like a prisoner who is freed from the cave and comes to understand that the shadows on the wall are actually not reality at all; while other inmates of the cave do not even desire to leave their prison, for they know no better life. This allegory applies to Al Jazeera versus the world. Once born, Al Jazeera left the ‘media cave’ and went on to reveal truths and facts to the Arab and world audiences. Identity questions like ‘who are we?’ or ‘who are they?’ are no longer valid. Al Jazeera helped us to know the answer. The people reeling under the brunt of tyranny appreciate Al Jazeera’s pursuit of human rights and dignity. Individuals came to recognise the value of freedom of expression; an opinion and the counter opinion; and to accept others’ differences and cultures.
Al Jazeera has provided a new paradigm of the global and Arab realities; namely from a purely Arab perspective. I have lived Al Jazeera’s entire journey; an idea turned into a reality. As a result, I can claim to be fully aware of how the Arab and global worlds were before Al Jazeera; and how they became thereafter. Al Jazeera is a beacon of hope to millions: not only is it carrying the torch of freedom of expression, but it is also defending the just causes of justice, equality and human rights. Above all, Al Jazeera is committed to the truth, telling the story with complete impartiality and from all angles. At the time of Al Jazeera’s birth, I was serving as Qatar’s Information Minister. The Father Emir, HH Shaikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, then the ruler, adopted a crystal-clear course: defending freedom of expression and supporting just causes. The leadership wisely removed all controls so that the media would play its role: awareness, development, and justice.
Al Jazeera: A Single Ray of Hope
Here, I should mention the role played by the Qatari leadership during the 1994 civil war in Yemen, maintaining the country’s territorial unity. This particular event exposed the gap between the reality of the mass media and the government policies. There came the idea of creating an out-of- the-ordinary news network; an example to follow in the Arab world and beyond. By 1995, The Father Emir decreed that the Information Ministry be dissolved, simply for being linked to censorship and limiting freedoms. It heralded a new dawn; a new era for the media in our region. Another milestone on Qatar’s journey towards the new reality of mass media was the famous ‘Affairs & Opinions’ talk show on Radio Qatar. The bold programme was a breakthrough; especially as the Radio Qatar waves reached all the Gulf countries. When I was asked to present a report to the Qatari leadership on the show, I simply wrote: “A wider margin of freedom is needed; the scope of affairs needs to broaden to include the unspoken of issues.” Slowly but surely, Qatar’s media vehicles started to move in the right direction. My last assignment as Information Minister was to the GCC ministerial level summit in 1995. The conferring parties knew about the dissolution. In his farewell message, a fellow GCC minister said: “We
have one last request before you leave office, kindly stop the ‘Affairs & Opinions’ show on Radio Qatar. The margin of freedom and issues discussed are a thorn in our necks.” “I cannot make a promise,” I replied. “All I can say is that it is only the tip of an iceberg.” Then came Al Jazeera; born and grown ripe against all odds. It went beyond to surmount the language barrier, launching Al Jazeera English, followed by Al Jazeera Balkans. Al Jazeera is addressing people in all corners of the globe; telling the world untold stories. During my Africa campaign for the race to the UNESCO chief office in 2017, I was telephoned by a prominent African leader who asked me to pay a visit to his country. At that time, the four blockading countries arbitrarily sought the shutting down of Al Jazeera. Upon meeting him, the prominent leader told me: “Kindly inform the Qatari leadership that we, in Africa, are proud of Al Jazeera; so keep going and pay no attention to these unlawful demands.” We all take pride in Al Jazeera’s fearless journalism; and raise the hat in salute to Al Jazeera and before that to the wise Qatari leadership that turned its vision into a reality.
Impartiality and Truth in Media
Impartiality and Truth in Media Dr. Mostefa Souag | Acting Director General Head of Al Jazeera Documentation Committee
According to the late Algerian intellectual Malek Bennabi, “When your homeland is under attack, impartiality is treason.” Volumes could be written on this remarkable aphorism, which captures profound knowledge gained by long intellectual and national experience. My aim here, however, is to use this quote to clarify the concepts of impartiality and truth in media, based on the personal experiences recounted by our colleagues in this book, marking Al Jazeera’s 25th anniversary – its Silver Jubilee. In choosing the theme of this book, the Supervising Committee concentrated especially on the ‘human side’ throughout Al Jazeera’s journey, while remaining open to other topics. Our colleagues were asked to write about this, drawing on their experience working for this institution. They each excelled, setting an example which I hope will inspire others to recount their own experiences. I thank all those who contributed to this book despite their busy schedules and the pressures of work, especially the independent contributors who share our passion for Al Jazeera and for the human dimension of its activities. I also appreciate the valuable work of the members of the “Book Committee” (a working group of the Documentation Committee) in reviewing the materials published.
My thanks, finally, to the colleagues responsible for detailed supervision of the book’s preparation: Sameer Al-Shamaileh, Mohamad Sidi Baba, and Lhaj Mohamed Nacik. There is so much in this book to be learned that cannot be viewed on Al Jazeera’s screens and platforms, nor found in the thousands of research studies, theses, and articles published on Al Jazeera. Here, each story is written by one of our own, speaking directly to the reader with no middleman. The accounts written in this book fall in two main categories, each reflecting the experiences of Al Jazeera personnel and the challenges faced by them and by the institution since its launch on 1 November 1996. The first category presents first-hand experiences of events which the writers lived through and helped to shape, which remain engraved in their memories. These range from the first premonitions of its launch all the way to the celebration of its Silver Jubilee in 2021, covering the different stages of its expansion from a single news channel to a vast network of different channels, platforms, centres, and departments. They include its
challenges and unparalleled successes, along with the tragedies that we still grieve – especially the martyrdom of colleagues who risked everything for the truth. From these vignettes we learn the exterior trajectory of the institution’s history. The second category explores the interior, unseen trajectory of our colleagues’ human experiences out in the field. These were written mainly by correspondents and envoys covering major events such as wars, natural disasters, famines, and other such human tragedies. Here we find journalists facing the ordeal of being torn between their professional duty and their personal feelings.
Their duty obliges them to give a full picture of the event being covered and to resist the inclination to sympathise openly with the victims. But this makes them appear ‘impartial’ in a situation where impartiality is almost impossible. Can a prey be put on equal footing with the predator in news reporting, as though each side were equally justified? Does this not give the impression of justifying the predator’s act, at least partly? How are they to channel the overflowing emotions that inevitably fill the heart of the reporter, cameraman, or story writer when they see child victims, for example?
Impartiality and Truth in Media
Where, then, are those overflowing emotions that were mentioned above? Here, in this book, we find them wonderfully depicted. The writers of these accounts have revealed what had been stored up in their memories over years of doing their work with strict professionalism, never crumbling in the face of heart-breaking human situations. These indomitable journalists kept up the highest standards of professionalism without losing their humanity. As I read these texts, I was bowled over by their authors’ courage and compassion. Their courage let them face wars and natural disasters and the like in order to bring the truth to Al Jazeera’s audience, but it does not numb their deeply felt emotions and their warm sympathy for the victims. This “professional courage”, deeply rooted in their human conscience, is firm yet tender. These authors, along with many others who have not contributed to this book but have faced similar challenges, deserve a world prize for humanitarian/journalistic heroism. I am deeply proud to be part of the organisation to which they belong, where we believe that “Working at Al Jazeera is not merely a job, it’s a mission.” These authors have, of course, broadcast and produced many stories showing their overflowing sympathy with the victims of such tragedies. Such stories have created sympathy among others, resulting in significant philanthropic aid to the victims. Such stories, however, were produced not as part of news coverage of the event, but as part of other types of media content, in particular feature stories.
“Al Jazeera is on the side of humanity” – this is the motto that Al Jazeera upholds in all of its work. It stays on the side of humanity by always trying to present the truth as it is, without distortion or spin. It works to expose corruption and fake news by revealing the truth. Impartiality, for Al Jazeera, means neither more nor less than complete adherence to the truth. Adhering to this sound premise, its only bias is towards humanity. Al Jazeera thus seeks to empower humanity by providing knowledge in as much detail as possible, believing that people armed with knowledge have the right to choose and the tools to make choices. That is why tyrants and corrupt officials attack Al Jazeera and spend so much money and time on demonising it. Their open war on Al Jazeera is a war against the truth. One cannot be silent about them, or impartial towards them; for “when the truth is under attack, impartiality is high treason”.
If they gave their emotions free rein, the report would not be broadcast. Rather than being a factual picture of what happened, it would be a mere one- sided lament. The editor in chief would reject it without hesitation for being biased, unbalanced, partial; for adopting one point of view while ignoring others; for lacking objectivity; for being unprofessional… and, therefore, for being unfaithful to the truth. Impartiality is essential. To give the full picture, we need to present both the torturer and the victim, without taking either side. This preserves the audience’s freedom to form their own opinion, having
seen all sides of the story. Presenting all sides of the story is the essential guarantee of presenting the truth. Only thus does media gain credibility. Only thus does it achieve its proper purpose: to inform the public and, therefore, to empower them - “knowledge is power.” I do not say the ‘whole truth’, simply because it cannot be ‘the truth’ unless it is whole. Certainly ‘truth’ here cannot refer to the ‘absolute truth’ discussed by philosophers, but it does mean the factual truth. Similarly, the impartiality of which I speak concerns news coverage, not other types of reports and programmes, in which this is less of a constraint.
Al Jazeera: Much More Than Just a Building
Al Jazeera: Much More Than Just a Building Ahmad bin Salem Al-Yafei | Managing Director, Al Jazeera News Channel
I still clearly remember that moment. It was on the afternoon of May 12, 2021, when Al Jazeera’s screen flashed with breaking news: “ISRAEL’S ARMY GIVE AL JAZEERA & OTHER MEDIA OUTLETS 1 HOUR TO EVACUATE BUILDING.” The Israeli military was going to bomb the tower housing our office in Gaza. Within seconds, we initiated communication with international human rights organisations and those dedicated to the protection of journalists. It wasn’t just the rights of our journalists that needed protecting – it was their lives. As the minutes passed, our colleague, Wael Dahdouh, and his fellow journalists in Gaza raced against the clock – to salvage what they could from the building and to escape with their lives. Throughout it all, they had only one thing on their minds: to keep our coverage going. I had only one thing on mine: the safety of our team in Gaza. Once our colleagues were safely out of the building, I watched it fall with a feeling of serenity I cannot explain. By destroying the 11-storey building, the Israelis thought they could muzzle Al Jazeera’s voice. But they failed to realise that our duty is not fulfilled only from offices made of walls and desks.
The image of the building coming down was eerily reminiscent of older images: the bombing of Al Jazeera’s bureaus in Kabul and Baghdad; the storming of our offices in Egypt and elsewhere; the killing and detention of our journalists. ‘What crime have we committed? Is journalism a crime?’ I kept asking myself. A week later, I was walking through Al Jazeera’s premises, following up the progress of some renovation projects initiated as a result of a joint study between the news departments and the research department. The aim of the study was to assess the degree of change in audience behaviour towards Al Jazeera’s content across various platforms. I was fully aware that we are leading a new trend in the industry, in terms of the concept and shape of a newsroom. It is based on reciprocal interactive engagement, where the audience is a contributor before being a recipient. Today’s viewers are no longer passive receivers; they are active participants, commentators, researchers, and critics of our news stories. This shows best when they respond to our content on their social media accounts.
From its very inception, Al Jazeera has felt the pulse of the people, and it is now listening and responding to their needs. It is a new leap forward – ensuring we not only continue to lead the industry but to gain more ground as we march towards our Golden Jubilee. As I walked towards the main entrance, some colleagues were waiting for me in the new hallway. I was briefed on the panoramic ‘Victory Wall’ mural that will feature the more than 70 international awards won in a single year – evidence of the global acclaim our content has gained. The Israelis may have shattered our cameras, but not our eyes; they may have broken our microphones, but not our voices; they may have destroyed our office, but not our place in peoples’ hearts. Truly, Al Jazeera is much more than just a building.
Al Jazeera and the Story of Our Time
Al Jazeera and the Story of Our Time Giles Trendle | Managing Director of Al Jazeera English
In June 2021 I was invited to be on the jury to review entries in the first annual ‘Covering Climate Now’ Journalism Awards. The aim of the awards was to honour journalists all around the world who are producing coverage on all dimensions of the climate story. The range and depth of reporting on climate change, from many of the biggest names in journalism, was impressive. But the stories uncovering what is happening to planet earth made for grim reading. Science tells us that our planet is warming to critical levels, risking an uncontrollable chain reaction of alarming phenomena including droughts, heatwaves, wildfires, cyclones and flooding. The UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, has described how the world is on course for a “catastrophic” temperature rise this century. Coming into office in 2021, the Biden-Harris administration acknowledged what it described as “the existential threat of the climate crisis.” Climate change may also be a hidden hand behind political affairs. For example, in the decade preceding the war in Syria, the country’s urban population increased by 50 percent as people flocked to the cities to escape prolonged drought. Some reports have cited this migration as being
a contributory factor to increased societal unrest that would go on to spill over into protests, and then war. The migration of peoples worldwide is likely to increase exponentially in the coming years as more land becomes inhospitably arid or submerged by rising sea levels. UN forecasts estimate that there could be anywhere between 25 million and 1 billion environmental migrants by 2050. A report in The New York Times entitled ‘The Great Climate Migration’ projected that rising sea levels could subsume nearly all of the Nile Delta, Egypt’s breadbasket, in as little as 30 years’ time. Some journalists are calling what is happening to the climate and our planet the ‘story of our time’. It is a story which Al Jazeera is well-placed to cover for at least two important reasons. Firstly, the mission of Al Jazeera is to tell the human story and hear the voices of those often unheard. That fits well with the story of climate change as too often it’s the poor and marginalised who are the first and foremost to pay the price for the actions of the carbon-emitting elites. Secondly, Al Jazeera’s international presence – with an extensive network of bureaux and reporters - means it is able to follow this unfolding, global story from all corners of the world.
Al Jazeera English has featured dramatic reporting from correspondents on the frontline of climate change highlighting the dire effects of environmental and ecological degradation. And our channel has featured longer-form, solutions- oriented journalism providing deeper context and inspiring stories. But given the scale of the story, are we doing enough? That remains an ever-pertinent question.
Al Jazeera and the Story of Our Time
2021 marks the 25th anniversary of Al Jazeera. Looking ahead to the next quarter of a century, I predict Al Jazeera journalists will increasingly find themselves reporting on stories that are linked, in one way or another, to our changing climate. The science – and actual events - make that statement overwhelmingly self-evident. To quote Bob Dylan: “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.” The mission of journalism is to present facts, analysis and insight to inform people about what is happening in the world. It is a world in which we, as human beings, will need to meet the challenge of addressing the harm we are doing to our planet – and to our own chances of survival. In covering this story – the story of our time - the role of the journalist is more important than ever.
In early 2021 Al Jazeera English partnered with Covering Climate Now, a non-profit, non-partisan consortium of more than 400 news outlets committed to reporting climate change. We went further by joining The Guardian, Columbia Journalism Review, The Nation, Scientific American, and Asahi Shimbun, Japan’s top selling newspaper, and others in declaring that climate change is the emergency that scientists say it is. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the importance of the media leading the way in informing audiences about a global problem that has very direct and personal risks to everyone. Yet the deaths and upheaval due to the coronavirus, while truly awful, pale in comparison to the potential consequences of climate change.
Al Jazeera: Ripe But Ageless
Al Jazeera: Ripe But Ageless Tariq Dodic | Managing Director, Al Jazeera Balkans
is an audience that trusts us and recognises that we are different. In the future, with countless media and countless new platforms, we have to work tirelessly to maintain audience trust, to protect and strengthen the specificity by which AJMN and AJB are recognised. Journalism is not a compromise, but a constant struggle for the truth: accurate, verified, timely, and impartial. Such journalism, to which Al Jazeera aspires, is often disliked by politicians, governments, and the powerful. We have witnessed numerous attacks on Al Jazeera’s people and property; imprisonment, destruction, demolition. However, as long as we move within the framework of our Code of Ethics, the tyrants, no matter how powerful they may be, will know whose side the truth is on. We, at AJB, have carved ten points of the Code of Ethics on our journalists’ desks, so that we can remind ourselves of that precious content every day. In my country, it is said that for a man and a car, the price is determined not only by age, but also by the kilometres travelled. The more years and kilometres, the lower the price. However, with our great AJMN it is just the opposite: in the quarter of a century so much has passed, both beautiful
It was late October 2011 and we were gearing up to start broadcasting Al Jazeera Balkans. At the same time, our mother company, Al Jazeera Media Network, was preparing to celebrate 15 years of their successful operations. We were almost there in terms of the editorial team and journalists, but technically we needed at least a few more days. I came up with an explanation for my managers in Doha that, if that short extension was approved, it would also be useful for marketing purposes. This was because we proposed that the new commencement date be November 11, 2011, or 11-11-11 – six number ones for a happy start. They
happily approved it, so on that date we became part of, allow me to be subjective, the largest media network in the world: AJMN. Twenty-five years of Al Jazeera and 10 years of Al Jazeera Balkans is a great occasion to reminisce briefly, but only briefly, about what we have done – in order that we may move forward with even greater zeal in being the voice of the voiceless. Being a credible international media organisation is a difficult task, which requires hard work minute by minute, day by day, and year by year, in order to see the result through the decades. And that result
and challenging, and tremendous experience and knowledge has been accumulated, which will be the foundation of our professional success in the future. Al Jazeera Balkans will be there, always as part of the solution. We are a younger but very proud member of the large, powerful Al Jazeera family.
As Rare As Hen’s Teeth
As Rare As Hen’s Teeth Ahmed Mahfouz | Managing Director, Al Jazeera Documentary
I recall how difficult it was to get my hands on Arabic reference resources when I was majoring in cinematic studies in Egypt’s High Cinema Institute. There were only a few technical translations available at the time. It was even harder to watch movies, whether Arabic or foreign, as there weren’t many movie theatres or other platforms available. And documentaries were as rare as hen’s teeth. This experience from the past played a key role while designing the vision, mission and strategy for Al Jazeera Documentary Channel. At that time, we had to consider a number of factors, chief among them the audience, which had a rigid and narrow definition of what a documentary was. Documentaries had always been associated with films on animals or the environment and were widely believed to be dull or haughty. Some were purely representative of a ruling regime or ideology. So, the major challenge before us was how to restore the audience’s confidence in documentaries? How to make them more interesting and exciting? Al Jazeera Documentary Channel was then the only Arabic channel dedicated to round-the-clock documentaries, but as more competitors have entered the arena, our challenges have continued to evolve.
We had to stamp our own Al Jazeera identity on documentaries. We did this by taking a different course, namely the exclusive production of large-scale documentary films. This entailed more challenges and hardships: to find qualified producers and filmmakers; to endure the long and costly production cycles; and above all to battle through the geopolitical landscape of the Arab World. Al Jazeera Documentary Channel then invested in a network of talented and qualified filmmakers, thus creating a new trend while reinforcing its own brand. In order to achieve its vision, Al Jazeera, parallel to all the above efforts, attracted a host of creative talents. We went beyond the administrative routine to embark on the endless prospects of creative work, encompassing all the industry’s genres. This enabled us to produce world-class Arabic documentary films. By observing the three edges of the triangle: audience, filmmaking and the working team, I believe Al Jazeera succeeded in bringing viewers back to the screen, with its exclusively produced and uniquely selected documentaries. At the same time, Al Jazeera worked on both the horizontal and vertical levels to better and perfect the content shown on our screen.
As Rare As Hen’s Teeth
Vertically meant to identify diverse documentaries, not only in degree but also in kind. While horizontally mandated us to expand geographically to cover the current film schools; needless to say this allowed a rich cultural diversity from day one. Al Jazeera Documentary Channel stood out by virtue of its innovative production, laced with style and
commitment to professionalism and human values. As a result, it has entrenched its position at the top of the international and Arab media landscape. With more than 2,500 documentary titles and thousands of acquisition hours from various sources, Al Jazeera has become a pioneering cultural project; a milestone in the history of Arab culture. With its documentary arm, Al Jazeera is truly a beacon for other outlets navigating the media ocean.
A Short Stint at the Helm
A Short Stint at the Helm HE Ahmed bin Jassim Al Thani | Former Director General
It was only a two-year spell I spent at the helm of Al Jazeera, yet every single day was a completely different experience - new challenges, more achievements. With collective hard work, dedication and watertight planning, we, amid tough competition from the world’s leading media organisations, achieved many milestones along the way. Guided by our values and principles, we had no alternative but to rise up to the challenge. Not only did we have to outperform amid the rapid advancements of a multifold industry, but we also had to inform the public and tell the untold story. Al Jazeera never lost sight of its mission: to be the voice of the voiceless. Even before holding the reins of command of the Network, I had known for a fact that Al Jazeera was a pioneering media enterprise. At that time, I was not well-versed in the minor details behind the compelling content we all view across Al Jazeera’s platforms. Al Jazeera’s content depends mainly on its vast newsgathering network of worldwide bureaus, wisely deployed professional correspondents, and dedicated journalists in its headquarters. Al Jazeera’s newsrooms are seething beehives, where producers and journalists are covering news around the clock; covering events from all angles and telling the human story.
Al Jazeera has entrenched its position at the forefront of the global media landscape by virtue of its credible and daring journalism. We have never been lured by getting a scoop, as credibility has always been the key. On numerous occasions, Al Jazeera received information from its own sources, however our journalists handled these pieces of news with absolute professionalism and dedication. Each word is vetted, analysed and double-checked before being put on screen. Objective verification from different sources is also adopted for establishing facts. Yet, the secret ingredient of Al Jazeera’s success, I then came to know, is the harmonious union between its staff expertise and strict adherence to professional ethics. Throughout my tenure, I was keen to maintain Al Jazeera’s leading position, which is not an easy task. It entails a great number of innovative solutions, bold initiatives, novel projects and above all well-thought-out planning. We aimed at developing our content; expanding across various platforms; expanding our geographical reach; and above all reaching new audiences in different languages.
Within this context, a dedicated investigative unit was established, where Al Jazeera presented a unique in-depth examination of unspoken and enigmatic stories. Most news outlets are averse to this genre because it comes at a high price. Not only does it entail huge financial resources, but it also gives rise to insurmountable obstacles. Political scandals and huge corruption cases that have been shrouded in mystery for years were exposed. Our award-wining investigative reports were picked up by media organisations worldwide.
A Short Stint at the Helm
We also expanded into new markets and reached a wider audience across various platforms. Our new-media strategy multiplied our viewership. Using the latest technologies and infrastructure, we completed the digitisation of all our archive assets and output content; all of which is now accessible at the click of a button. At the time I took office before Al Jazeera’s 15th anniversary, the toughest challenge was to maintain the lead Al Jazeera occupies; especially following the outstanding Arab Spring coverage. Research studies showed that Al Jazeera stayed ahead of the competition. The days I spent at the helm of Al Jazeera were inspirational. I witnessed epic sacrifices by our colleagues who believe in Al Jazeera’s mission and values. They were and still are acting in service to the truth. The whole spell was a valuable addition to my personal character as well as my professional career. It was a quantum leap in thought and knowledge alike.
Now more than ever before in this post-social media era, there is a dire need for in-depth journalism. It is a must to steer peoples away from fake news and fabricated toxic stories. Marking Al Jazeera’s 10th anniversary, we all cherished the ‘Al Jazeera Spirit.’ It is this very spirit that is still inspiring Al Jazeera staff to remain steadfast in its editorial policy. It is an epitome of our mission. Al Jazeera never served as the state’s mouthpiece nor was it driven by profits. In addition, siding with the people has given Al Jazeera an extra edge: the ability to thoroughly dissect the reality and foresee the after-effects. Going down memory lane, namely to 2006 when Al Jazeera entered a multifront battle during the US invasion of Iraq. An unpublished memorandum made within the British government, said to be the minutes of a discussion between American President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, speculated about bombing Al Jazeera’s world headquarters in Doha and other locations. The move was blocked by the then Secretary of State, Colin Powell.
Eternal Spring Wadah Khanfar | Former Director General
It was yet another eventful day in weeks-long uninterrupted coverage, where Al Jazeera’s screen was adorned with dozens of red ‘breaking news’ lower thirds. As Egypt’s snowballing protests culminated in Mubarak’s ouster, celebrations broke out all over the Arab World. As long office hours had taken a toll on me, I drove home via my usual route - Doha Corniche. Countless thoughts were spinning in my head; a torrent of emotions thrashing about inside me. The trickle of people turning out had become a flood. They were of various nationalities; coming to
express their joy. Some chanting joyous slogans; others handing out candies. As the crowds swelled around my car, I could not drive any further. Some among the crowds recognised me and pulled me out of the car. As a token of their appreciation to Al Jazeera, they hugged me in joy. I was overwhelmed and could not hold back my tears. That was the pinnacle of my 8-year watch at the helm of the channel. I spent a chapter in my career serving as a correspondent in Africa, Afghanistan and then Iraq. There, I came to realise that the most indispensable
tool of in-depth journalism is understanding the psychosocial and cultural fabric of the peoples. A foreign correspondent must be equipped with such a tool to be able to truly and objectively tell their story. To this end, Al Jazeera always excelled. Al Jazeera managed to build a vast network of correspondents, well-versed in every aspect of the lives of the peoples they are covering, and wisely deployed in every corner of the world. As such, Al Jazeera’s reporters were the best to tell the story within the right contexts; to convert information into valuable knowledge.
Al Jazeera was not bombed, yet it remained the target of negative propaganda campaigns under the pretext that it was providing a platform for terrorists. Simultaneously, most of the Arab ruling regimes continued their crackdown on Al Jazeera; shutting down its offices and arbitrarily arresting its reporters. It was even falsely alleged that Al Jazeera was a Zionist mouthpiece created by the Mossad. With every passing day, realities on the ground prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that Al Jazeera is providing credible in-depth content. Al Jazeera defiantly continued to battle through all these adversities and to excel with professionalism and tolerance. It would not have been possible without the bold stand taken by the Qatari leadership. As the Arab world continued to plunge into chaos and fragmentation, Al Jazeera continued to side with the human story, defending the right to freedom and dignity. As the crackdown continued, Al Jazeera had no presence in Tunisia; its offices in Egypt were closed; even its frequency on satellite was banned. A tight siege was laid around us; however, our enthusiastic young New Media team came up with creative solutions, switching our broadcast onto the web. Our audience’s response was prompt as millions turned to our content online, before we, in a short span of time, managed to find other alternatives and resume onscreen reporting.
Al Jazeera has taken the Arab media to new heights, shifting it from serving as a mouthpiece for the powerful to siding with the underprivileged, the unheard and the marginalised. Not only is Al Jazeera a true gauge of the pulse of Arab peoples, but it is also expressive of their hopes and aspirations. It is their collective consciousness, and has become their way of life. Al Jazeera is not a political party nor are we a group of rebels. We are simply a team of professional journalists. It is not a paradox, nor a mystery; Al Jazeera is the normal example of free independent media, served by an elite group of journalists holding steadfast to professional ethics and human values. Despite hailing from different nationalities and backgrounds, Al Jazeera staff have one thing in common: Al Jazeera’s mission to tell the human story and be the voice of the voiceless. Fearless in embracing change, Al Jazeera has always been dynamic. Throughout a quarter of a century, it has adopted creative initiatives against all odds - political, social and technical.
Needless to say that Qatar was the perfect birthplace for Al Jazeera, where the network found unlimited scope of freedom and resources. Back to where I began, when I got out of my car and dissolved into the jubilant crowds on the Corniche that night, I remembered our fallen journalists, who sacrificed their lives in service to the truth and free journalism. They are the eternal spring of inspiration to all of us. Al Jazeera has been – and will always remain – in service to this cause.
Al Jazeera: A Wise Vision, A Noble Endeavour
Al Jazeera: A Wise Vision, A Noble Endeavour Mohammed Jasim Al Ali | Former Managing Director, Al Jazeera News Channel
My relationship with Al Jazeera is inexplicable. What the founding team and I lived through is hard to describe. From the moment the idea was born until the day it took shape, it was clear that Al Jazeera was going to be a turning point in the history of Arab media. It all started in 1975 when I had a 3-month internship at Qatar Television before I was recruited to work there. I soon resigned to pursue my undergraduate studies. I was advised by a friend not to; as I could combine both study and work, especially as Qatar TV used to broadcast from 4pm in those days. Having graduated in 1979, I headed the programmes department for a decade, before I moved to the government’s Ministry of Information. For a career challenge, I accepted the offer from the government of Sharjah to help launch their first satellite television channel. I was the first Qatari to take part in such a huge media endeavour within the GCC states, which came to light after two years of hard work. Back in Doha in 1994, I assumed the office of Assistant Director General of Qatar TV and in the same year Al Jazeera was born as an idea.
The ambitious project’s board met on a regular basis with Shaikh Hamad bin Thamer Al Thani, and I was nominated to be a member of the board. The idea was put to paper in 1995 and immediately work on the infrastructure began. Studios were built, even before the journalistic and technical teams were formed. The initial kick-off date was set in June of the same year, but it was not practically feasible on the ground. Therefore, we laid down a three-pronged project: construction, technical infrastructure, and employment. Jobs were advertised in the leading Arab newspapers, and we were flooded with resumes from across the region. Seeking to recruit quality professional staff, candidates were shortlisted and then interviewed in both London and Paris by myself along with the deputy chairman, Mahmoud Al Sahlawi, and Adnan Al Sharif. When the BBC laid off their staff, we managed to recruit 25 of them, including leading names such as Jamil Aazar, Jamal Rayan, Sami Haddad, Mohammed Krishan, Salah Najm, Ahmed Al Shaikh, Ibrahim Hilal, Ibrahim Abdul Razik, and many others.
Other journalists and technicians from Egypt to Morocco were also recruited. I started to feel the magnitude of the responsibility placed on my shoulders when in May 1996 I was elected as the board Managing Director and acting Director General of Al Jazeera. Now, I was at the helm, and would be fully responsible for any failure.
47Page 1 Page 2-3 Page 4-5 Page 6-7 Page 8-9 Page 10-11 Page 12-13 Page 14-15 Page 16-17 Page 18-19 Page 20-21 Page 22-23 Page 24-25 Page 26-27 Page 28-29 Page 30-31 Page 32-33 Page 34-35 Page 36-37 Page 38-39 Page 40-41 Page 42-43 Page 44-45 Page 46-47 Page 48-49 Page 50-51 Page 52-53 Page 54-55 Page 56-57 Page 58-59 Page 60-61 Page 62-63 Page 64-65 Page 66-67 Page 68-69 Page 70-71 Page 72-73 Page 74-75 Page 76-77 Page 78-79 Page 80-81 Page 82-83 Page 84-85 Page 86-87 Page 88-89 Page 90-91 Page 92-93 Page 94-95 Page 96-97 Page 98-99 Page 100-101 Page 102-103 Page 104-105 Page 106-107 Page 108-109 Page 110-111 Page 112-113 Page 114-115 Page 116-117 Page 118-119 Page 120-121 Page 122-123 Page 124-125 Page 126-127 Page 128-129 Page 130-131 Page 132-133 Page 134-135 Page 136-137 Page 138-139 Page 140-141 Page 142-143 Page 144-145 Page 146-147 Page 148-149 Page 150-151 Page 152-153 Page 154-155 Page 156-157 Page 158-159 Page 160-161 Page 162-163 Page 164-165 Page 166-167 Page 168-169 Page 170-171 Page 172-173 Page 174-175 Page 176-177 Page 178-179 Page 180-181 Page 182-183 Page 184-185 Page 186-187 Page 188-189 Page 190-191 Page 192-193 Page 194-195 Page 196-197 Page 198-199 Page 200-201 Page 202-203 Page 204-205 Page 206-207 Page 208-209 Page 210-211 Page 212-213 Page 214-215 Page 216-217 Page 218-219 Page 220-221 Page 222-223 Page 224-225 Page 226-227 Page 228-229 Page 230-231 Page 232-233 Page 234-235 Page 236-237 Page 238-239 Page 240-241 Page 242-243 Page 244-245 Page 246-247 Page 248-249 Page 250-251 Page 252-253 Page 254-255 Page 256-257 Page 258-259 Page 260-261 Page 262-263 Page 264-265 Page 266-267 Page 268-269 Page 270-271 Page 272-273 Page 274-275 Page 276-277 Page 278-279 Page 280-281 Page 282-283 Page 284-285 Page 286-287 Page 288-289 Page 290-291 Page 292-293 Page 294-295 Page 296-297 Page 298-299 Page 300-301 Page 302-303 Page 304-305 Page 306-307 Page 308-309 Page 310-311 Page 312-313 Page 314-315 Page 316-317 Page 318-319 Page 320-321 Page 322-323 Page 324-325 Page 326-327 Page 328-329 Page 330-331 Page 332-333 Page 334-335 Page 336-337 Page 338-339 Page 340-341 Page 342-343 Page 344-345 Page 346-347 Page 348-349 Page 350-351 Page 352-353 Page 354-355 Page 356-357 Page 358-359 Page 360-361 Page 362-363 Page 364-365 Page 366-367 Page 368-369 Page 370-371 Page 372-373 Page 374-375 Page 376-377 Page 378-379 Page 380-381 Page 382-383 Page 384-385 Page 386-387 Page 388-389 Page 390-391 Page 392-393 Page 394-395 Page 396
Made with FlippingBook Online newsletter