Wadah Khanfar


Former director-general of al-Jazeera broadcaster As director-general of al-Jazeera, the Qatar-based satellite broadcaster, Wadah Khanfar who worked for eight years was at the heart of the Arab spring. He made his name in the aftermath of 9/11 and led the transformation of Arab television that some believe enabled the Arab spring to take place. And the glory of those February 2011 days when 24-hour rolling news helped ensure the safety of the Tahrir Square protesters. The hefty subsidy paid by the Qatari royal family to al-Jazeera, Khanfar always insisted, did not buy editorial influence. Furthermore, the support of the emir and the chair of governors insulated the channel from the complaints of foreign governments. When the al-Jazeera satellite channel began its broadcast in 1996 from the Persian Gulf state of Qatar, more than a digital revolution was born. For the first time, Arabs, hungry for freedoms and democracy, were able to watch news programmes and talk shows in their own language and assembled by independent journalists rather than by government propagandists. With an estimated 50 millions viewers, the network is being imitated across the region. When Al-Jazeera English started in 2006, it was 50 countries and 80m households, and by the end of 2010 it reached 130 countries and 260m households, and has more than 3,500 employees, according to the channel. Al-Jazeera has angered Arab governments by giving airtime to rebel movements and freedom advocates and tackling taboo topics like polygamy and apostasy. Born and grew up in a village near Jenin on the West Bank, son of a teacher, Wadah Khanfar studied engineering in Jordan.

Compiler: M. Nauman Khan

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