Saudi Journalist Abudlrahman Al-Rashed, the former general manager of Al-Arabiya News Channel, said that only recently has Al-Jazeera adopted journalistic standards and that it used to be nothing more than an indoctrination and recruitment channel. He made these remarks on Thmanyah Podcasts (Saudi Arabia), which was posted on the Internet on June 9, 2021. Al-Rashed said that Al-Jazeera used to play complete tapes recorded by Bin Laden, which ran for 20-30 minutes to an hour long. He explained that this could not be considered journalism. Al-Rashed added that in "those days" everybody, even in Saudi Arabia, supported Bin Laden and his ideology. He said that it was hard for Al-Arabiya to swim against this tide, that it was a real challenge, and people cursed him, doubted his patriotism, his commitment to Islam, and his moral values. However, Al-Rashed said that Al-Arabiya's course of action changed the media market for years to come.
Interviewer: "If you were given the Bin Laden Tapes, would you have aired them on Al-Arabiya?"
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed: "Yes, but differently than the way [Al-Jazeera did it]. Look, it was not a mistake to air the Bin Laden tapes. The mistake that Al-Jazeera had made and then stopped making... Bin Laden died, of course, but [they stopped] for other reasons... They wanted Al-Jazeera to act as a channel for recruitment and indoctrination, and not as a news channel, and that's the difference between them and me."
Interviewer: "So, they wanted to present their opinion clearly?"
Al-Rashed: "Indoctrination. You make the public absolutely support the issue. Indoctrinate, indoctrinate, indoctrinate... This is the Al-Jazeera way. That is a clear path that continues, but to a lesser extent today, to tell you the truth. Today, [Al-Jazeera] is more professional that it used to be. They used to air a half-hour-long tape [of Bin laden], for example. They would play the whole thing, from A to Z, and they would add three main headlines. On top of that, they would rerun it six times. Professionally speaking, if you were a journalism student, in any school in the world, you would take only the most newsworthy part of the tape. Bin Laden's tapes were usually 20 minutes, 30 minutes, or an hour long, and they would play the whole thing. The truth is that most of it was like pleading a case rather than airing news.
"The newsworthy part in which he talked about this or that attack and made threats would last no longer than two minutes. This is thew newsworthy part that today we would usually use, no matter the source. We usually take the newsworthy part from a long speech. They used to air the entire thing. If that tape had been sent to me, I would have taken it, of course. I would take only the part where he threatens to burn or to target this place or another. What would be the difference between me and them, if I had done this? Once Bin laden would be done talking, I would bring people who would respond. Al-Jazeera used to bring people to support or to justify what he said. Later, when the international pressure exerted on Al-Jazeera intensified, and when people started saying that Al-Jazeera had violated professional principles and had turned into an indoctrination channel... When the pressure intensified, they started bringing other people – one who was against [Bin Laden], and two or three who supported him.
"Everybody supported Bin laden, back then, even in Saudi Arabia. No need to sugarcoat it or lie to the people. This ideology was everywhere and people believed in it. Combatting this ideology was not an easy task. It was the right thing to do, but very hard to do it. It was easy to succeed as the general manager of Al-Jazeera. Honestly, it was the easiest thing – the political discourse was there, the Bin laden tapes were there, people are emotional and crying, and everybody supported him. What more do you need in order to attract the public? But to take the opposite approach, this is an act of..."
Interviewer: "It's a challenge."
Al-Rashed: "A real challenge. You are swimming against the tide and people are cursing you, and doubting your patriotism, your commitment to Islam, and your moral values. You come to a point where you can't take it anymore."
Interviewer: "It's suicide."
Al-Rashed: "Yes, suicide. But we followed this line and there is no doubt... Thanks to the trust I was given by the people who appointed me, and to my colleagues who carried out the work, I believe that our mission changed the media market for years to come."