Ex-Al Jazeera chief: Governments were ‘scared’ of us during uprising in Egypt

Dylan Stableford
November 29, 2011

Wadah Khanfar, former top executive of Al Jazeera, told editors at a conference in Hong Kong on Tuesday that during the uprising in Egypt earlier this year, other governments in the Arab world were "scared" that the network's coverage of the revolution was "[training] people in their countries how to revolt."

Al Jazeera's Cairo offices were closed by the Egyptian government in January, and later attacked; in March, the network's offices in Yemen came under fire, too.

Khanfar said "the most difficult moment in my life [was] when the satellite signal was put out" during its coverage of the revolution in Cairo "and the Arab World was seeing a blackout on the screen."

Khanfar stepped down in September amid a scandal unearthed by a diplomatic cable from the U.S. embassy in Doha. According to the cable published by WikiLeaks, Khanfa met with a U.S. intelligence official to discuss "disturbing Al Jazeera website content." (Khanfa then agreed to delete the content. "Not immediately, because that would be talked about, but over two or three days," Khanfa said, according to the cable.)

Nonetheless, he praised "Internet activists" for their role in keeping Al Jazeera afloat despite pressure from governments. "We could not cover Egypt without the internet activists," Khanfar said. "Our offices were closed and we could not deliver the message without new media."

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