‘Al Jazeera on Trial’ by ex-journalists, academics in Washington

Surprising times. David Pollock attending the National Press Club event in Washington, on June 22.

2017/06/25 Issue: 112 Page: 5

Washington- Two former Al Jazeera journalists have accused the Qatari-owned media network of breaching journalistic ethics and explicitly supporting terrorists.

The accusations were made by former Al Jazeera employees Mohamed Fahmy and Mohamed Fawzy during a news conference in Washington. They also an­nounced the launch of website “Al Jazeera on Trial,” which will docu­ment a multimillion-dollar law­suit filed against the outlet.

“Just as we expect governments to abide by basic human rights, we also expect news outlets like Al Jazeera to respect the ethics of journalism, stop endangering the lives of its staff and refrain from sponsoring groups like the Muslim Brotherhood and [Jabhat] al-Nusra — an affiliate of al-Qae­da — and other terrorist groups,” Fahmy said.

The former Al Jazeera English Cairo bureau chief criticised the channel’s decision to broadcast a weekly programme featuring Muslim Brotherhood ideologue Yusuf al-Qaradawi, during which the Egyptian cleric in exile explic­itly supported terrorism.

Fahmy was convicted in 2014 of collaborating with the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood and fabricat­ing news stories. He served 438 days in prison. Fawzy, a former Al Jazeera cameraman, was con­victed of the same charges in ab­sentia.

During his prison term, Fahmy said Muslim Brotherhood prison­ers confirmed the extent of their “unethical and illegal” relation­ship with Al Jazeera, including Muslim Brotherhood activists who sold footage to the network that was broadcast without sourc­ing or vetting.

“This is not citizen journalism… It’s taking sides in the conflict and endangering the lives of your re­porters,” Fahmy said.

David Pollock, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute and director of Project Fikra, said Al Jazeera’s “popularity” and “cred­ibility” had greatly diminished in recent years.

Pollock, who is also a former US State Department senior adviser on the Middle East, said: “Al Ja­zeera transformed into the official mouthpiece of Qatar and other ex­tremist groups, most prominently the Muslim Brotherhood.”

The panel discussed how Al Ja­zeera would publish articles and reports in Arabic supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, while re­serving more neutral content for their English-language media. “English speakers cannot under­stand as a whole what Al Jazeera is all about if all they do is watch Al Jazeera English,” he said.

As for what happens next with the Qatari crisis, Pollock said: “There is still room for Qatar and Al Jazeera to make adjustments without making a fundamental change… but I am not certain that the countries that are isolating Qatar will accept this. We are truly living in surprising times.

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