Al Jazeera faces staff revolt after announcing launch of new ‘conservative’ platform

Editorial credit: Philip Lange / Shutterstock.com

More than 100 staff at the Qatari media network Al Jazeera have signed an open letter to management objecting to the launch of a new rightwing digital platform.

The internal letter, which was sent to senior leaders of the network, said the launch of Rightly was “an affront to the ethical, journalistic and editorial vision and guidelines of Al Jazeera.”

Al Jazeera is marketing Rightly as a way to reach “audiences currently underrepresented in today’s media environment” and a showcase of the “racial, cultural and generational diversity of centre-right politics.”

The internal letter to Dr. Mostefa Souag, Al Jazeera’s Acting Director General, said: “The introduction of an opinion-based platform that seeks to promote a political ideology is an affront to the ethical, journalistic and editorial vision and guidelines of Al Jazeera. Simply put, ‘Rightly’ stands in direct contrast to everything that Al Jazeera has represented and will irreparably tarnish the network’s brand and work…

“Those of us who work in the United States already face tremendous challenges, and our jobs will only be made more difficult now that we will be associated with promoting a political ideology.

“For so long, we have worked to keep this channel and network true to its sense of mission. How does this new platform align with the network’s commitment to amplify the voices of the marginalized and hold power to account?

“‘Rightly’ markets itself as a “space between the extremes” – what does that say about the journalism we do? Are we part of the problem that ‘Rightly’ is trying to correct? That is the message being sent by the marketing that we’ve seen so far from ‘Rightly’. This message undermines the work, ethics, professionalism and commitment to the truth of Al Jazeera journalists across the network.

“This isn’t about politics, left or right, or diversity of perspectives. Since its inception 25 years ago, Al Jazeera has had a long and robust tradition of featuring a wide range of perspectives on all of its platforms. This is about journalism and continuing the network’s moral mission of uplifting marginalized voices, communities and stories. ‘Rightly’ is a betrayal of that mission.

“Furthermore, it is being launched following layoffs, budget cuts, hiring freezes and a lack of promotions and pay raises. Many women of color in particular have been performing jobs above their titles without proper compensation. This raises serious questions about the network’s priorities and distribution of resources.”

Analysts have speculated that Rightly is Qatar’s attempt to build bridges with the U.S. after four difficult years with the Trump administration which was closer to Qatar’s Gulf rivals Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

A spokesperson for the network said: “Al Jazeera has a rich history of providing a voice to all sides and encouraging truth-based debates and reporting. We have expanded our footprint previously with AJ+ … along with many other programs, brands and offerings that provide a diverse repertoire of ideas and perspectives. Rightly is a continuation of this rich tradition.

“Our mission is to deliver captivating content to the world which informs, inspires and entertains, through our talented, creative and spirited people … Rightly is the next chapter.”

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