HuffPost Live invited me to join a segment last night and discuss the case of Qatari poet Mohammed al-Ajami, who was sentenced to life in prison last week for apparently seeking to overthrow the government through his poetry.
What the show actually focused on, though, was Al Jazeera and its “hypocrisy” for poor coverage of al-Ajami’s sentencing.
Without a doubt, Al Jazeera soft-balled its coverage of al-Ajami, who uses the poetic name Ibn al-Dheeb (Son of the Wolf). There was no mention of him on either of Al Jazeera’s main TV channels, and while a story was published in English on Aljazeera.com, it was short and largely sourced Reuters’, rather than including original reporting.
During last night’s show, which was hosted by former Al Jazeera English colleague Ahmed Shihab-Eldin and joined by ex-AJE presenter Imran Garda, as well as journalists Amber Lyon and Shirin Sadeghi, the focal point of our discussion was how the lack of coverage of Al-Ajami ultimately damages Al Jazeera’s credibility.
Is going soft on this significant issue enough to undermine the credibility Al Jazeera has built story by story for years? Or does it just mean few will take it seriously when it comes to reporting on Qatar?
Have a watch and let us know your thoughts…