Lawsuit Alleges that Al Jazeera America Discriminated Against Women, Promoted Bias

The Qatar-owned TV station Al Jazeera America (AJAM) is the target of a lawsuit filed by a former executive, Shannon High-Bassalik, alleging that the network discriminated against women and non-Arabs and promoted anti-Israel bias in its reporting, Politico reported Thursday.

In her lawsuit, High-Bassalik, who has also worked at CNN, MSNBC and NBC, alleges the network promoted only Middle Eastern and Arabic viewpoints, at one point even invoking conspiracy theories such as that the Sept. 11 attacks were conducted by the CIA. High-Bassalik said the network had abandoned “journalistic objectivity.”

High-Bassalik also alleges that non-Arabic and female employees were treated as “second class citizens.” Arabic employees were routinely given inflated performance reviews and promoted to jobs they were not qualified for, High-Bassalik alleges. Al Shihabi would often exclude female employees from meetings and would “leave meetings where female employees were giving presentations and [state] that he would only return when such employees had stopped speaking.”

The lawsuit also alleges that the company’s management promoted an anti-Israel bias, and when employees tried to counter the messages, they were told they were too biased in favor of the country.

High-Bassalik specifically charged that during last year’s war with Hamas, she was told that the network’s mission was “to cast Israel as the villain and emphasize the Arab and Muslim point of view.”

The network was hit last month by multiple high-level resignations and a lawsuit alleging sexism and anti-Semitism in the workplace. The resulting scandal led to the demotion of the network’s unpopular CEO, Ehab Al Shihabi. Despite the controversy surrounding him, Al Shihabi remains with AJAM.

The Guardian added:

The troubled news network, an offshoot of the international Al Jazeera network, has reached few viewers in the United States. Through lawsuits and resignations over the past two months, a picture has emerged of a place that has consistently fallen short in its efforts to give Americans a hard-news, unbiased alternative to CNN, Fox News Channel and MSNBC.

“As ratings failed to live up to the expectations of management, Al Jazeera openly decided to abandon all pretense of neutrality in favor of putting the Arabic viewpoint front and center, openly demanding that programs be aired that criticized countries such as America, Israel and Egypt,” High-Bassalik’s lawsuit stated.

AJAM was launched nearly two years ago amid accusations of acting as “an informal tool” of Qatar’s foreign policy.

AJAM reduced staff and original programming last year due to lackluster ratings.  The ratings decline continued into this year.

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