Wadah Khanfar

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Wadah Khanfar
Khanfar in 2006
Born (1968-09-20) 20 September 1968 (age 55)
OccupationPresident of Al Sharq Forum

Wadah Khanfar (Arabic: وضاح خنفر; born 20 September 1968) is the President of Al Sharq Forum, an independent network dedicated to developing long-term strategies for political development, social justice and economic prosperity of the people of the Middle East. He previously served as the Director General of Al Jazeera Media Network. He has been ranked by Foreign Policy Magazine in 2011 as the first in The FP Top 100 Global Thinkers,[1] and in Fast Company as the first in the 100 Most Creative People in Business (2011)[2] and as one of the most 'Powerful People in the World' by Forbes magazine (2009).,[3] in 2008 World Economic Forum named Khanfar as one of the 'Young Global Leaders'.[4] During his tenure Al Jazeera went from a single channel to a media network with multiple properties including the Al Jazeera Arabic channel, Al Jazeera English, Al Jazeera Documentary, Al Jazeera Sport, Al Jazeera's news websites, the Al Jazeera Media Training and Development Center, the Al Jazeera Center for Studies, Al Jazeera Mubasher (Live), and Al Jazeera Mobile. On 20 September 2011, he stepped down as the head of Al Jazeera Network.[5][6]

Early years and education[edit]

Wadah was born in the Palestinian town of Rama in 1968.[7][8] He obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in engineering at the University of Jordan in 1990 and went on to complete a post-graduate degree in philosophy, a diploma in African Studies from Sudan International University and an Honors Degree in International Politics.[9] During this time, Khanfar started a student's union that soon spread to several other universities[10] and an inter-university dialogue group among students constituted from a range of political backgrounds.[11] By 1989, the student's union was playing an active role in debating the future of the democratic process, and Khanfar started making a name for himself as a charismatic and natural leader,[10] helping to organize forums, protests, festivals and demonstrations for student rights.[11]



When Al Jazeera was established in 1996, Khanfar was a graduate student in International Politics and African Studies in South Africa, and a researcher and consultant in Middle Eastern economics and political affairs. He was asked by the channel to provide an analysis on African affairs, which led to him becoming a correspondent in South Africa until 2001.[8][12] At a conference in Pretoria on 27–29 August 2012, Khanfar said that he had learned about both political struggle and reconciliation during his years in South Africa.[13]


In 2001 and 2002, Khanfar reported on Afghanistan from New Delhi. Al Jazeera was unable to get its own correspondent back into the northern territories controlled by the Northern Alliance on the eve of the war, so New Delhi was used, India having a strong Northern Alliance diplomatic presence. As the Taliban regime was collapsing, Al Jazeera's presence in Kabul was threatened by problems including US fire,[14][15] and concerns from journalists and diplomats that the then bureau chief and correspondent, Tayseer Allouni had become compromised as a partisan of the Taliban cause. Khanfar was brought in to replace Allouni as Kabul bureau chief and restored working relations with the new authorities.[14]


During the Iraq war, Khanfar reported from Kurdish-controlled territory in the north,[16] and after the fall of Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath regime, he became Al Jazeera bureau chief in Baghdad.[14][17]

At this time the channel was widely perceived as playing to popular pro-Baathist and anti-Coalition Arab sentiment, despite being represented at the Coalition's Central Headquarters and having an Al Jazeera correspondent embedded within coalition forces.[12][14] The then US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and then Deputy Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz publicly criticized Al Jazeera, Rumsfeld calling the channel's reporting "vicious, inaccurate and inexcusable...",[18] while Wolfowitz claimed the station was "inciting violence" and "endangering the lives of American troops" in Iraq.[19]

This public criticism came amid attacks on Al Jazeera from US forces, including the shelling of a hotel in Basra on 8 April 2003 used solely by the channel's correspondents.[20] Nearly a week later, US forces bombed the station's Baghdad offices wounding one cameraman and killing a correspondent, Tariq Ayoub[19][21] on the same day that two Reuters journalists were killed when a US tank shell struck their office in the Palestine Hotel. In July, Khanfar wrote an open letter to Paul Bremer, the US proconsul in Iraq responding to his assertion that television stations or newspapers guilty of "incitement to violence" would be shut down.[19] Khanfar wrote that his offices and staff had been subject to "strafing by gunfire, death threats, confiscation of news material, and multiple detentions and arrests, all carried out by US soldiers", asserting that the channel's coverage had been consistently harassed for unfavourable reporting during the Ba'athist regime.[19] He also said that because Al Jazeera at that time was only available in Arabic, reliance on the channel's coverage came "from second-, third- and fourth-hand sources – half-truths and total falsehoods that make the rounds in Washington, Baghdad and elsewhere."[22]

Al Jazeera executive[edit]

Khanfar became Managing Director of the Al Jazeera Channel in 2003 and Director General of the Al Jazeera Network in 2006. He spoke at the 2011 TED Conference on the ongoing Arab Spring.[23] On 20 September 2011, Khanfar announced on his official Twitter page that he was 'moving on' from Al Jazeera after leading the channel for 8 years.[citation needed]


In September 2011, the non-profit whistleblowing website WikiLeaks released a cache of leaked diplomatic cables highlighting U.S. activities overseas. Several of the cables implicated Khanfar in unduly influencing Al Jazeera's news coverage of the War in Iraq at the behest of U.S. embassy officials in Qatar. In one instance, the cables suggested that Khanfar removed images of wounded Iraqi civilians from an Al Jazeera report following pressure by the U.S. embassy. They also suggested that Khanfar was anxious to keep his behind-the-scenes collaboration secret.[24]


In September 2011, Khanfar announced to his staff and publicly on the micro-blogging platform Twitter that he would be resigning. In an emotional farewell to Al Jazeera staff he cites that the decision had been in his mind for sometime and that the target of establishing Al Jazeera as a global media leader has been met. This is also the theme of an interview broadcast on Al Jazeera where he addresses and refutes suggestions that Wikileaks and pressure from USA may have influenced his resignation.[25] He is succeeded by Ahmed bin Jassim Al Thani.


Wadah Khanfar was accused by some of a pro-Islamist bias.[26] Responding to these accusations in a 2007 interview with The Nation, Khanfar said: "Islam is more of a factor now in the influential political and social spheres of the Arab world, and the network’s coverage reflects that. Maybe you have more Islamic voices [on the network] because of the political reality on the ground."[26] In June 2007, Hafez Al-Mirazi, Al-Jazeera's Washington bureau chief, denounced what he saw as the station's "Islamist drift", and singled out Khanfar in particular, saying: "From the first day of the Wadah Khanfar era, there was a dramatic change, especially because of him selecting assistants who are hardline Islamists."[26]

During the Iraq War, Al Jazeera broadcast a report that American troops had raided Najaf and detained the religious leaders of the Shia Islamic community, which turned out to be false. Khanfar defended the blunder as an honest mistake.[27]

Al Udeid Air Base served as a logistics hub for U.S. operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. As Saliyah Army Base, the largest pre-positioning facility of U.S. equipment in the world, served as the forward command center for CENTCOM personnel during Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Israel trade office in Qatar. Khanfar was also criticized to favor and be biased towards the Hamas political party in the Palestinian Territories, as opposed to the Palestinian Authority run by Fatah.

Membership and activities[edit]

Khanfar has the following memberships; member of International Crisis Group's Board of Trustees, member of the World Economic Forum's (DAVOS) Global Agenda Council on Geopolitical Risk 2012,[28] board member of the Global Editors Network:empower editors-in-chief and senior news executives from around the world looking for the preservation of editorial quality when working with publishers, media owners and news suppliers.[29]

Khanfar spoke at the 2011 TED Conference on the ongoing civil uprisings in the Arab Spring.[30]

First visit to the United States[edit]

In July 2009, Khanfar was invited to the United States by leading political and media think tanks including the Middle East Institute, New America Foundation, Council on Foreign Relations, and George Washington University. This was the first time that a Director General from Al Jazeera has visited the US. During the visit Khanfar also met with senior officials and advisors at the White House, United States Department of State and the Pentagon. On the visit to the US, Khanfar appeared on the Charlie Rose Show, NPR's Diane Rehm show, and presented at the Paley Center for Media.[citation needed]


  1. ^ "The FP Top 100 Global Thinkers". Foreign Policy. 28 November 2011. Retrieved 7 December 2012.
  2. ^ "Most creative people 2011: Wadah Khanfar". Fast Company. 18 May 2011. Archived from the original on 1 October 2016. Retrieved 7 December 2012.
  3. ^ "#54 Wadah Khanfar". Forbes. 11 November 2009.
  4. ^ "Forum announces Young Global Leaders for 2008". Geneva: World Economic Forum. Retrieved 7 December 2012.
  5. ^ "Al Jazeera director general steps down". Al Jazeera. 20 September 2011. Retrieved 7 December 2012.
  6. ^ Black, Ian (20 September 2011). "Al-Jazeera boss Wadah Khanfar steps down to be replaced by Qatari royal". The Guardian. London.
  7. ^ "The world's 50 most influential Arabs". The Free Library. 1 May 2009. Retrieved 27 May 2011.
  8. ^ a b "Al Jazeera Chief Wadah Khanfar on Obama's Expansion of the Afghan War, US Policy in the Middle East and the Role of Independent Voices in the Media". Democracy Now. 31 March 2010. Retrieved 27 May 2011.
  9. ^ "At Jazeera~ we stand by the truth". The Peninsula Qatar. 1 November 2006. Retrieved 27 May 2011.
  10. ^ a b Bhoyrul, Anil (12 October 2007). "Wadah Khanfar: Wadah's world". Arabian Business. Retrieved 27 May 2011.
  11. ^ a b "GCC's Most Admired Executives-Wadah Khanfar". Arabian Business. 6 December 2009. Retrieved 27 May 2011.
  12. ^ a b "Interview With Wadah Khanfar, Director General, Al Jazeera". PBS. 1 November 1996. Retrieved 27 May 2011.
  13. ^ "Conference on the MENA Uprisings". 27 August 2012.
  14. ^ a b c d "TBS 11: Arab Gulf, Arab Satellites". TBS Journal. Fall 2003. Retrieved 27 May 2011.
  15. ^ "Transcript of "Al Jazeera Now"". On The Media. 26 March 2010. Archived from the original on 15 December 2010. Retrieved 27 May 2011.
  16. ^ "Wadah Khanfar, Director General of Al Jazeera, to Deliver 2010 Symposium Keynote Address". Center for Contemporary Arab Studies (CCAS) – Georgetown University. 2010. Retrieved 27 May 2011.
  17. ^ "Wadah Khanfar named as the network's manager". Sign on San Diego. 29 October 2003. Retrieved 27 May 2011.
  18. ^ Scahill, Jeremy (1 December 2005). "The War on Al Jazeera". The Nation. Retrieved 27 May 2011. {{cite magazine}}: Cite magazine requires |magazine= (help)
  19. ^ a b c d "Robert Fisk:Al-Jazeera Accuses US of Harassment in Row Over "Bias"". Information Clearing House. 30 July 2003. Retrieved 27 May 2011.
  20. ^ Jason Deans (2 April 2003). "Al-Jazeera's Basra hotel bombed". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 27 May 2011.
  21. ^ Jonathan Steele in Amman (9 April 2003). "Tareq Ayyoub". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 27 May 2011.
  22. ^ "Independent Iraq news". Baghdad Bulletin. 31 August 2003. Retrieved 27 May 2011.
  23. ^ TED.com (2011). Wadah Khanfar: A historic moment in the Arab world. Retrieved 1 May 2011.
  24. ^ After Disclosures by WikiLeaks, Al Jazeera Replaces Its Top News Director, The New York Times, 20 September 2011
  25. ^ "Al Jazeera's Khanfar on why he stepped down". Al Jazeera. 21 September 2011. Retrieved 1 September 2020.
  26. ^ a b c Ferjani, Riadh, Middle East Journal of Culture and Communication, Volume 3, Number 1, 2010, pp. 82-100(19). p. 89
  27. ^ Culture wars: the Arabic music video controversy", American Univ in Cairo Press, 2005, (p. 126)
  28. ^ "Global Agenda Council on Geopolitical Risk 2012". World Economic Forum. Retrieved 7 December 2012.
  29. ^ "Board Members". Global Editors Network. Archived from the original on 24 June 2013. Retrieved 7 December 2012.
  30. ^ Wadah Khanfar: A historic moment in the Arab world, TED, retrieved 7 December 2012

External links[edit]