‘Why I walked out on Aljazeera’

The former public face of satellite news network Aljazeera has said he quit the station because he was “not very comfortable” with the new direction it was taking.

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By  Tim Addington Published  September 4, 2005

The former public face of satellite news network Aljazeera has said he quit the station because he was “not very comfortable” with the new direction it was taking. Jihad Ali Ballout walked out in July after three-and-a-half years as its spokesman because of “professional” differences with the management at the Qatar-based news network. He has since been hired as director of corporate communications at rival news network Al Arabiya. “My decision to leave had both personal and professional angles,” Ballout said. “There were changes in direction at Aljazeera that made me think it was time to make a move. “I felt there was a new direction which I was not very comfortable with. There were subtle changes that I was not very happy with. I did my best work under pressure and perhaps I wasn’t getting that much pressure anymore. I didn’t feel that I would be able to sustain the impact I have had over three-and-a-half years.” Although refusing to go into details on why he quit Aljazeera, a statement issued by Al Arabiya announcing Ballout’s appointment said: “It is worthy to note that some weeks ago, regional media touched upon ‘professional diversions of view’ between Ballout and his former employer in Qatar pertaining to certain policies adopted by management that coincided with the launch of the ‘new look and content’ a couple of months ago, which is reported to have led to his move out of Doha.” Staff at Aljazeera are understood to be anxious that the company’s planned English language station, Aljazeera International, which is set to launch in the first quarter of 2006, will take resources away from the Arabic news network. Ballout took up his post at Aljazeera shortly after the September 11 terror attacks and was forced to defend the news network from critics in the United States who claimed the station was pursuing an anti-western agenda during the Iraq war. During the war United States forces mistakenly shelled the station’s Baghdad bureau as they entered the Iraqi capital. Nobody from Aljazeera was available to talk about Ballout’s departure.

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