- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 10, 2015

Leaked Al Jazeera emails reveal that the news outlet was not so keen to get behind the “Je suis Charlie” movement following the Charlie Hebdo terror attacks in Paris that left 12 dead.

Al Jazeera English editor and executive producer Salah-Aldeen Khadr sent out a staff-wide email with guidelines on how the Qatar-based news source would make it’s coverage of the attack “the best it can be,” National Review reported Friday.

Mr. Khadr requested that his employees to ask if this was “really an attack on ‘free speech,’” to discuss whether “I am Charlie” is an “alienating slogan,” caution viewers against “making this a free speech aka ‘European Values’ under attack binary [sic], and portray the attack as “a clash of extremist fringes.”

The leaked email accuses cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo of baiting extremists with obnoxious and goading images.

“Defending freedom of expression in the face of oppression is one thing; insisting on the right to be obnoxious and offensive just because you can is infantile,” Khadr wrote, National Review reported. “Baiting extremists isn’t bravely defiant when your manner of doing so is more significant in offending millions of moderate people as well. And within a climate where violent response—however illegitimate [sic]—is a real risk, taking a goading stand on a principle virtually no one contests is worse than pointless: it’s pointlessly all about you.”

The email prompted a rift between Al Jazeera employees.

Hours later, U.S.-based correspondent Tom Ackerman sent an email quoting a New York Times January 7 column arguing that satirical cartoons like the ones published by Charlie Hebdo must be published, “because the murderers cannot be allowed for a single moment to think that their strategy can succeed.”

But correspondents in Qatar snapped back, defending Muslims who had been offended by the cartoons.

“I guess if you insult 1.5 billion people chances are one of two of them will kill you,” wrote Mohamed Vall Salem, who reported for Al Jazeera’s Arab-language channel before transferring to the English branch in 2006, National Review reported.

“And I guess if you encourage people to go on insulting 1.5 billion people about their most sacred icons then you just want more killings because as I said in 1.5 billion there will remain some fools who don’t abide by the laws or know about free speech,” he wrote.

Mr. Salem continued to say that Charlie Hebdo did not demonstrate free speech, but rather an abuse of free speech.

“I condemn those heinous killing, but I’M NOT CHARLIE,” he wrote.

Then Jacky Rowland, Al Jazeera English’s senior correspondent in Paris, emailed a “polite reminder” to her colleague saying “#journalismisnotacrime.”

The hashtag elicited a furious response from reporter Omar Al Saleh who wrote, “but I AM NOT CHARLIE.”


The National Review pointed out that the email exchange shows a rift between Al Jazeera’s Arab base and the Western correspondents it hired after being accused for years of promoting anti-Western sentiment.

• Kellan Howell can be reached at khowell@washingtontimes.com.

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