x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Al Jazeera leader quits after 8 years

Wadah Khanfar is to quit his position as director general of Al Jazeera, departing on a high note following the network's acclaimed coverage of the Arab Spring.

Wadah Khanfar, the director general of the Al Jazeera Network, is to step down after eight years at the helm of the TV network, based in Qatar.

"After eight years of service leading Al Jazeera, I have just announced that I am moving on," Mr Khanfar said yesterday via his Twitter account.

Mr Khanfar's resignation comes just months after Al Jazeera won plaudits for its coverage of the Arab Spring, which propelled the network into the international spotlight, and earned it recognition from the likes of Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state.

However, the news follows recent revelations by WikiLeaks, which exposed Al Jazeera's surprisingly close relationship with the US government.

According to one classified document released by WikiLeaks, Mr Khanfar allegedly agreed to tone down and then remove an Al Jazeera website article that the US government found objectionable.

His replacement is Sheikh Ahmed bin Jassim Al Thani, who takes over starting today.

Mr Khanfar met Al Jazeera staff yesterday afternoon to discuss his departure. "I have served Al Jazeera with pride as a correspondent, bureau chief, managing director and director general," he said in a tweet.

"I think everyone will agree that Al Jazeera is stronger than ever. Our coverage has been exceptional and is now widely viewed," he wrote. "Eight years is a long time to be leading a network. Renewal and change is always good".

Mr Khanfar started his career with Al Jazeera in 1997, one year after it launched. He initially served as a correspondent in South Africa, followed by spells in Afghanistan and Iraq, before being named chief of the Baghdad bureau. He became managing director of the Al Jazeera Channel in 2003 and director general of the network in 2006.

bflanagan@thenational.ae