Al-Jazeera English journalists protest after being ordered to re-edit UN report to focus on Qatar emir's comments on Syria
"Al-Jazeera's editorial independence has been called into question after its director of news stepped in to ensure a speech made by Qatar's emir to the UN led its English channel's coverage of the debate on Syrian intervention.
Journalists had produced a package of the UN debate, topped with excerpts of President Obama's speech, last Tuesday when a last-minute instruction came from Salem Negm, the Qatar-based news director, who ordered the video to be re-edited to lead with the comments from Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani.
Despite protests from staff that the emir's comments – a repetition of previous calls for Arab intervention in Syria – were not the most important aspect of the UN debate, the two-minute video was re-edited and Obama's speech was relegated to the end of the package.
In September 2011, Wadah Khanfar, a Palestinian widely seen as independent, suddenly left as director-general after eight years in the post and was replaced by a member of the royal family, Sheikh Ahmed bin Jassim al-Thani, a man with no background in journalism.
In his resignation letter, Khanfar said, after noting that the channel had been criticised by Donald Rumsfeld and hailed by Hillary Clinton, that "al-Jazeera is still independent and its integral coverage has not changed".
He added: "When we launched in 1996, media independence was a contradiction in terms", but al-Jazeera had managed "to pleasantly surprise" its critics by "exceeding all expectations"."