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Big names quit Al-Jazeera English over its alleged anti-American stand

Big names quit Al-Jazeera English over its alleged anti-American stand

Al-Jazeera is quite badly hit—it is facing mass departures owing to its English channel's alleged anti-American bias. Three three senior journalists have quit in recent times, more are said to be in the queue.

Dave Marash, the most high-profile US journalist on Al-Jazeera's English language service, left the channel last week, attacking its narrowing world view and increasingly anti-American editorial slant. Marash said Al-Jazeera today "is not the channel that I signed up to do."

Steve Clark, a former senior executive at ITN and Sky News and a driving force behind the launch of Al-Jazeera English, resigned the week earlier. Clark was a key figure in the long delayed launch of Al-Jazeera English in November 2006, with an ambitious mission to challenge the dominance of CNN and the BBC with an "alternative worldview". Deputy Director of News Al Anstley has also quit.

Marash, a former ABC correspondent, said that editorial input from Washington had "gotten smaller and smaller" and that the Qatar-based management were exerting control on the channel's overseas bureaux, according to the Telegraph.

Al-Jazeera launched its English channel in 2006, bidding to become a big name in global broadcasting and to take on the long-established BBC and CNN. Insiders, acording to the Guardian, say more than 15 staff have quit or resigned in recent months amid complaints of a lack of clarity over its direction, contractual disputes and speculation over a relaunch later this year.

"To put it bluntly, the channel that's on now—while excellent, and I plan to be a lifetime viewer—is not the channel that I signed up to do," said Marash, whose two-year contract ended with the channel last week.

Marash, who's being replaced by former CNN International host Shihab Rattansi, said he was the last American-accented anchor at the network, which broadcasts from Washington, London, Kuala Lumpur and Doha, Qatar. He told teh Associated Press (AP) that there are more Canadians than Americans working at the Washington office.

Will Stebbins, Washington bureau chief for Al-Jazeera English, denied any bias against Americans. "We certainly evaluate US policy rigorously," Stebins told AP. "But we do our best to give everyone a fair shout."

Marash, according to Agence France-Presse (AFP) said that the 24-hour Doha-based network had started exercising increasing editorial control not only over its Washington bureau, but also over the European and Asian broadcasting hubs in London and Kuala Lumpur.

"They started covering the whole world very well, but from the point of view and the interests of Doha and the surrounding region," Marash said. Editorial input from the Washington bureau, he said, "small at the start, has gotten smaller and smaller."

Al-Jazeera English, the AP reported, has been largely unsuccessful in getting US cable or satellite systems to pick it up, except for the municipal cable system in Burlington, and a small system visible in Toledo and Sandusky, Ohio. But its programming is available on the network's YouTube site.

Stebbins said Marash was recently told that he would no longer be an anchor at the network. Al-Jazeera thought Marash was better utilized as a reporter, and singled out a recent series he did on American suburbia as worthy of praise. "We were sorry to see Dave go," he told AP.

According to the Guardian, however, Clark's departure was expected after his wife, Jo Burgin, the former head of planning at al-Jazeera English, launched a claim for sex, race and religious discrimination. It is expected to be heard in the next two to three months.

Date posted: March 30, 2008 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 795