WASHINGTON, Sept. 21 (UPI) -- The news director for the Arab network al-Jazeera resigned after WikiLeaks revealed he altered the network's Iraq war coverage because of U.S. pressure.
Wadah Khanfar, a former correspondent in Iraq and elsewhere for al-Jazeera, was the network's news director for eight years resigning Tuesday, The New York Times reported. Al-Jazeera, financed by Qatar, named a member of the Qatari royal family to replace Khanfar.
WikiLeaks in August released U.S. diplomatic cables indicating the network consulted with Qatar, the United States and other governments. Among them was a cable dated October 2005 that described an embassy official's meeting with Khanfar when he received copies U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency reports on three months of al-Jazeera's coverage of the Iraq war. Khanfar indicated the Qatari Foreign Ministry already had given him two months of the U.S. reports, the Times said.
Khanfar also urged U.S. officials to keep secret his surreptitious collaboration and objected to a report's reference to an "agreement" between the United States and the pan-Arab news network, the Times said.
"The agreement was that it was a non-paper," the leaked cable indicated Khanfar as saying. "As a news organization, we cannot sign agreements of this nature, and to have it here like this in writing is of concern to us."
During the war, senior U.S. officials publicly criticized al-Jazeera's coverage as fueling anti-American sentiment but the cable indicated Khanfar tried to convince the diplomatic official that al-Jazeera was trying to be fair, the Times said.
At least one leaked cable indicated Khanfar had changed coverage at a U.S. official's request.
Foreign Policy magazine said Khanfar couldn't be reached for comment and the network had no official response to the claims. However, a source told Foreign Policy the meetings between al-Jazeera management and U.S. officials were standard and continue today. In fact, the source said, representatives of other diplomatic missions take their complaints to al-Jazeera, adding that network officials gave the complaints undue weight.