Al Jazeera America Comes Out Swinging

Network Rebuts Discrimination Reports

Al Jazeera America went on the defensive Monday, refuting reports that the channel had regularly discriminated against women and subjected workers to a steady stream of anti-Semitic remarks.

In a statement Monday, the network said the reports “are false and malicious and are designed to mar the exceptional talent and diversity of its employees and the values that Al Jazeera America upholds.”

According to a report in CNN last week former Al Jazeera director of media and archive management Matthew Luke filed a $15 million lawsuit against the network, claiming the network pulled female employees off projects and excluded them from meetings. Luke also claimed his supervisor, Osman Mahmud, senior vice president of broadcast operations and technology, regularly used anti-Semitic slurs. Luke said he was fired 10 days after complaining to human resources.

According to CNN, citing the complaint, Mahmud said that supporters of Israel "should die a fiery death in hell."

The suit closely resembles another employee dispute with a separate network – Zee TV’s Z Living – where former marketing head Michael Snyder said executives there regularly made anti-Semitic remarks. That suit is currently in mediation, sources said.

Al Jazeera America said the network has had to fight off criticism and discrimination ever since its inception in 2013, when pan-Arab  Al Jazeera purchased former U.S. Vice President Al Gore’s Current TV in a deal valued at about $500 million.

 “Al Jazeera America does not tolerate any discriminatory conduct and we take great pride in the diversity of our organization and its leadership,” said CEO Ehab Al Shihabi in a statement. “The recent attacks on us as being anti-Semitic, sexist and anti-American are absurd.  Al Jazeera America’s values are based on the highest ethical standards and professionalism.  Integrity and respect guide our conduct internally and externally.”

The channel, which has a female president, Kate O’Brian, has made some recent programming changes that it said has helped it better address the needs of a 24/7 news operation and has expanded its field reporting abilities. Some reports have criticized the channel for replacing programs with Al Jazeera English, the English language version of parent Al Jazeera, which some have said runs counter to its pledge to keep the two separate.

“Al Jazeera America is a fresh and much-needed new approach for journalism in the US with serious journalists delivering in-depth news -- news that’s making a positive difference in peoples’ lives,” O’Brian said in a statement. “I’m especially proud of the impact we’ve had and the awards we’ve won in the very short time since we launched.”