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Al Jazeera replaces top news director amid WikiLeaks disclosures on collusion with US

September 21, 2011 - Manama

Qatar-based pan-Arab broadcaster Al Jazeera Network has reportedly replaced its top news director in the wake of WikiLeaks revelations that he modified the network's Iraq war coverage in response to pressure from the US.

According to The New York Times, the network has named a member of the Qatari royal family and a businessman, Sheik Ahmad bin Jasem bin Muhammad Al-Thani, to replace Wadah Khanfar.

Recently disclosed United States diplomatic cables have revealed the network's interactions with Qatar and other governments.

A cable sent by the American ambassador, Chase Untermeyer, described an embassy official's meeting with Khanfar.

According to the cable, and dated October 2005, the official handed Khanfar copies of critical reports by the United States Defense Intelligence Agency on three months of Al Jazeera's coverage of the Iraq war.

According to the cable, Khanfar said that the Qatari Foreign Ministry had already provided him with two months of the American reports, suggesting a close three-way consultation involving the two governments and the network.

According to the paper, he also urged American officials to keep his behind-the-scenes collaboration a secret.

Senior United States officials often charged publicly during the Iraq war that Al Jazeera's coverage inflamed anti-American sentiment, but in the cable Khanfar appeared eager to convince the American official that Al Jazeera was trying to be fair.

He said he was preparing a written response to the points raised in the intelligence reports, according to the cable.

According to the paper, in at least one instance, involving a report on the network's Web site, Khanfar said in the cable that he had changed coverage at the American official's request.

He said he had removed two images depicting wounded children in a hospital and a woman with a badly wounded face.


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