The letter below was sent to German magazine Der Spiegel in response to a recent article by Gregor Peter Schmitz. Despite numerous requests, they have refused to publish it, so we present it here in its entirety.
In reference to your article on Al Jazeera (15 February), the criticisms contained therein appear to emanate from some narrow points on the political spectrum, and don’t represent the entire picture.
On Bahrain, no news network has covered events more extensively and in-depth than Al Jazeera – despite the fact we are banned from there, and face even more restrictions than most other media outlets in reporting from the country.
On the alleged “protest” by staff at covering the Qatari Emir’s speech on Syria in New York, there was no such protest. That speech was clearly newsworthy, and indeed it was also covered by a number of other outlets.
On safety of journalists, nobody takes the safety of its employees more seriously than Al Jazeera. Our sharp end reporting means that over the years several of our journalists have paid the ultimate price while covering events in hostile environments.
Safety equipment was dispatched to Mohamed Al-Massalma, but due to restrictions in Daraa, was not able to be delivered. The video of his shooting, in contradiction to your report, was never on our website. All correspondents are provided with journalist training, and all output on screen is vetted against our vigorous editorial standards before broadcast.
On alleged departures from Al Jazeera, we are a large organization with thousands of staff, and of course there is turnover. A tiny handful have in recent times cited political reasons for their departures. We are not aware of the departures from Paris or London that you mentioned though.
Our coverage from the Arab uprisings has been consistent in each country, and has been rightly lauded and praised across the world from the early days of Tunisian and Egypt to the present day. If people like what we did in Egypt (and the staff that left appeared to), Syria is being covered according to the same principles. Some however took a different view of the Syrian uprising and decided to leave for what can only be seen as their own political and ideological biases.
Mostefa Souag, Managing Director, Al Jazeera Arabic