April 30, 2015
Al Jazeera America Sued For Discrimination By Former Employee

Al Jazeera America has been hit with a $15 million wrongful termination lawsuit that charges the cable news channel with allegedly harboring a behind-the-scenes anti-female, anti-U.S., and anti-Semitic environment.

As you may recall, Al Gore and his partners sold Current TV to the Al Jazeera satellite news network in late 2012 for about $500 million (a payment that is now subject to an unrelated lawsuit), which enabled the Qatar-based broadcasting organization to gain a foothold in the American media market.

Global warming crusader Gore took a lot of heat, even from fellow liberal Jon Stewart, for hypocrisy in selling his TV station to Big Oil. Al Jazeera is backed by the royal family of the oil-rich country of Qatar.

The plaintiff in the discrimination-related case, ex-Al Jazeera America employee Matthew Luke, claimsin a legal brief filed in a New York court earlier this week "that Osman Mahmud, who rose through the ranks to become Luke's supervisor as senior vice president of broadcast operations and technology, removed female employees from projects, excluded women from emails and meetings and made discriminatory, anti-Semitic and anti-American remarks such as 'whoever supports Israel should die a fiery death in hell,'" Politico reported.

Luke was subsequently fired sometime after lodging an internal complaint with HR about the situation, giving rise to an implication of possible illegal retaliation.

Mahmud denied the allegations when contacted by the Washington Post about the Luke lawsuit.

According to Luke's attorney, however, "When Mr. Luke, an exemplary and loyal employee at Al Jazeera, reported the biased and discriminatory conduct of a high-level newsroom executive, the response was to circle the wagons and fire the messenger. This is a clear violation of the law. One would expect more from an organization whose mission statement is 'to be recognized as the world's leading and most trusted media network.'"

"The suit also claims that AJA executives exhibited an 'anti-American' bias in recent months as key executives recruited for the U.S. operation were replaced with Middle Eastern execs from the parent Al Jazeera org..." Variety noted.

Al Jazeera America has pulled in mediocre ratings despite spending $2 billion on the effort. Several execs have also quit the company while reporters and others have been sent packing as the channel apparently departs from its original, independent broadcasting mission. "Insiders said AJA, funded by the government of Qatar, is laying off staffers and watering down its US editorial voice while programming from sibling Al Jazeera English occupies more air time," the New York Post explained.

"Beyond low viewership, AJA has the additional hurdle of overcoming the lingering perception that its parent company is connected to terrorist orgs in the Middle East," Variety observed.

Although Al Jazeera America would not comment on the Matthew Luke wrongful termination lawsuit specifically, a statement from the network maintained, "The company takes these matters seriously and will respond in the appropriate forum. Al Jazeera America's commitment to diversity and inclusion is fundamental to its mission, and is boldly reflected throughout the company: in its staff, its leadership and its programming."

[image credit: Wittylama]