Around 90% Al Jazeera budget from Qatar government: DG

BBC Hardtalk questions Channel director general

LONDON 19 August 2017: Around 90 per cent of Al Jazeera budget comes from the Qatari government, according to Mostafa Souag, Director General, Al Jazeera Media Network.

All the things seen on Al Jazeera are “financed by the government, by the state of Qatar,” Souag told Stephen Sackur, on BBC’ HARDtalk, on Wednesday, said Wam.

Souag tacitly confirmed Amnesty International’s report that Qatar authorities continue to unduly restrict the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly, as well as the Human Rights Watch’s report on the bad treatment of migrant workers who are supposed to be building facilities for the World Cup, said Wam.

“I am not telling you that Qatar is a democratic country yet” said Souag.

The programme carried accusations levelled against Qatar, including those indicating that the channel has turned to be a “defamation tool of manufactured news,” and that it provides “very bad news” and became an “instrument, in the hands of Al Qaeda, Daesh, and Hezbollah.”

The anchor said he relied in these accusations more on “the testimony of people who’d actually worked inside Al Jazeera, including Greg Colstream Park, a former staffer on Al Jazeera who was there for nearly four years.”

“I don’t know if you know him personally but on this first issue of whether the difference is significant between Al Jazeera English and Arabic, Park says, there was and there still is a vast gulf between Arabic and Al Jazeera English. They share a name but little else, even operating out of separate buildings, across the street from each other, and their editorial lines are very sharply different,” said Sackur.

The anchor also cited Al Jazeera’s description of Al Qaeda affiliate groups, as “moderate opposition” to the Syrian president.

Sackur raised another example of Al Jazeera’s biased coverage: “Your correspondent based in Germany quit in 2012 because he says your coverage of serious issues since the rioting began in Syria 2011 has become so partisan and one-sided he could not stomach it anymore.”

When Souag accused the correspondent of being “100% with the Syrian regime and he couldn’t swallow the fact that we were reporting from the field about the revolution” and that’s why he resigned,” Sackur termed Souag’s attitude as “very odd” to say earlier that he was a journalist of high reputation and then when he comes out with a statement that he is deeply unhappy with the channel’s reporting, he, i.e. Suaq, said, he, is unacceptably partisan. “You can’t have it both ways,” said Sackur.

The anchor accused Souag of looking like a minister from the Qatar government: “When it comes to freedom of assembly, expression, freedom of workers to associate in unions, look at the treatment of migrant workers who are supposed to be building facilities for the World Cup.”

By Rajive Singh