Al Jazeera mister journalister og seere og grunnen er politisk styring fra emiren i Doha, Khalifa Al Thani. Al Jazeera er blitt et utenrikspolitisk instrument for styresmaktene.
Det skurrer kraftig med bildet av en frisk, moderne, oppegående nyhetskanal som tok opp kampen med CNN og BBC.
Al Jazeera var instrumental under den arabiske våren: spesielt i Egypt var man på folkets side mot autokraten. Men etter at Brorskapet kom til makten har Al Jazeera svingt. Nå blir president Mohammed Morsis dekreter rost opp i skyene, og demonstrantene blir fremstilt i negativt lys. Rollene er byttet om. Al Jazeera er like systemlojal som regjeringspressen under Mubarak. Slikt tærer på imaget.
Since the Arab Spring, though, many former dissidents have risen to power across the region — and these fledgling leaders often show little respect for democratic principles. Al-Jazeera, however, has shamelessly fawned upon the new rulers.
Today, when Egyptians protest against President Mohammad Morsi and the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood, Al-Jazeera is often critical of them, in the style of the old pro-government TV station. Conversely, according to ex-correspondent Suliman, Al-Jazeera executives have ordered that Morsi’s decrees should be portrayed as pearls of wisdom. «Such a dictatorial approach would have been unthinkable before,» he says. «In Egypt we have become the palace broadcaster for Morsi.»
This is rather surprising considering that Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, the emir of Qatar and financier of the network, used to ban such blatant influence peddling. The walls of the TV station’s modern headquarters in Doha are decorated with quotations from free-thinkers like Bob Dylan and Mahatma Gandhi.
But the emir, who also has an autocratic style of leadership and occasionally puts unwanted journalists behind bars, is having an increasingly difficult time with independent spirits working on his favorite project.
Styringen er så sterk at mange journalister har sluttet i protest. De klarer ikke forene kravene med sin journalistiske integritet.
A prominent correspondent who, until one year ago, used to report in Beirut for the network, says: «Al-Jazeera takes a clear position in every country from which it reports — not based on journalistic priorities, but rather on the interests of the Foreign Ministry of Qatar,» he says. «In order to maintain my integrity as a reporter, I had to quit.»
Critics say that the emir now essentially trusts only his own people: The network’s director general is now a relative of the emir, as is the head of the advisory board. They are seemingly required to follow political guidelines laid down by the palace — instead of serving the interests of viewers. Thanks to its oil wealth, Qatar is blessed with the world’s second highest per capita income, and it’s a key geo-political player with a clear agenda.
When, for instance, mass protests were staged against the neighboring regime in Bahrain, a close ally of the emir, Al-Jazeera almost entirely ignored the situation. In Syria, on the other hand, where Qatar supports the Islamist-leaning opponents of President Bashar Assad with money and weapons, the network’s journalists are extremely close to the rebels. Such proximity can be dangerous in every respect, even lethal — as suggested by a widely circulated online video.
Videoen man sikter var av en citizen journalist, en syrisk aktivist som med livet som innsats skaffet Al Jazeera bilder fra borgerkrigen. En dag gikk det galt.
The images show an intersection near Daraa, in southern Syria. A member of the opposition Free Syrian Army, wearing a bulletproof vest, runs across a street on the outskirts of Bursa al-Harir, which has been besieged by troops loyal to the Assad regime for the past nine months. A second man, wearing a sweatshirt but no special protection, follows his lead. From a Syrian army checkpoint located a few hundred meters away, soldiers open fire and a number of shots bring down the man in the sweatshirt.
His name was Mohammed al-Musalma and he was 33 years old. He had been working for Al-Jazeera under the codename Mohammed al-Horani since April 2012. He was regularly paid by the network and was reputed to be one of the most experienced citizen journalists in Daraa and the surrounding area. Musalma was one of numerous local activists who film as much as possible in the hopes that Al-Jazeera will decide to broadcast some of their footage.
‘Poses a Danger’
His death has raised questions. For one, running across a wide street in view of an enemy checkpoint is extraordinarily risky. And, while it makes sense that Musalma was not wearing anything clearly identifying him as a member of the press — reporters in Syria are advised against doing so — established media organizations outfit their staff members with safety equipment, including bulletproof vests. Al-Jazeera, however, would seem not to prescribe this kind of protection for local activists who serve the broadcaster as inexpensive part-time correspondents.
Suliman says that he and a number of colleagues broached this topic during a visit to the headquarters in Doha a few months before Musalma’s death. «If a differentiation is no longer made between activists and journalists, then that poses a danger to everyone,» he says.
En slik utnyttelse av syrere, desperate etter å alarmere verden om situasjonen, er heller ikke bra for imaget. Spesielt ikke hvis man ikke gjør noe for å bedre deres sikkerhet.
Akhtam Suliman har arbeidet som korrespondent i Tyskland siden 2002, dvs. han har vært med på oppturen. Men i august i fjor hadde han fått nok.
Last August, he quit his job. «Before the beginning of the Arab Spring, we were a voice for change,» he says, «a platform for critics and political activists throughout the region. Now, Al-Jazeera has become a propaganda broadcaster.»
Suliman is not the only one who feels bitterly disappointed. The Arab TV network has recently suffered an exodus of prominent staff members. Reporters and anchors in cities like Paris, London, Moscow, Beirut and Cairo have left Al-Jazeera, despite what are seen as luxurious working conditions in centrally located offices.
Denne utviklingen er i seg selv et tegn på at utviklingen etter den arabiske våren går i feil retning. At et opplysningsprosjekt som Al Jazeera svikter sin oppgave, er et dårlig tegn for regionen.
Emiren av Qatar la nylig 500 millioner dollar på bordet og kjøpte den venstreorienterte TV-kanalen Current TV, grunnlagt av Al Gore. Den har vært en flop hittil. Al Jazeera vil inn på det amerikanske markedet. Emiren har dype lommer, men journalistisk integritet kan han ikke kjøpe.
Ifølge en hemmelig rapport Aftonbladet har fått fatt i, mister Al Jazeera seere i dramatik omfang.
Det totale omfanget av seerflukten skal ikke være fullstendig klart, men ifølge Aftonbladet rapporterer ulike arabiske medier om en nedgang fra 43 til 6 millioner seere — altså en nedgang på hele 86 prosent.
I Tunisia skal nedgangen ha gått fra 950 000 seere til rundt 200 000 seere på bare ett år.