Anger and condemnation have been growing among Iraqis and journalists as well, following the decision of US-funded Alhurra Iraq TV (part of Alhurra network) to lay off 34 employees, in a sudden move with almost no explanation.
The 34 Iraqi employees who are believed to be mostly Shiite were laid off while the news outlet was announcing a relaunch. Many on Arabic language social media suggested the decision was driven by discrimination related to the new administration of the channel.
Meanwhile, rumors started swirling on a growing UAE influence taking effect in the channel, as it started receiving funds from Abu Dhabi Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Zayed.
This comes after Former US diplomat Alberto Fernandez was appointed as head of the Middle East Broadcasting Network (MBN) promising to make fundamental changes in the TV channel’s policies and personnel in July 2017.
Shortly after, he announced hiring Jordanian journalist and former Sky News Arabia CEO, Nart Bouran as senior vice president of news, programming and transformation at MBN.
The plan, to fundamentally change the news outlet, was then becoming more clear with new a administration that consists of names known for their close ties with UAE and its rulers
Translation: “Alhurra was acquired by the UAE-Saudi alliance and a Jordanian sectarian and hater head was appointed. The channel’s discourse will witness major change toward Shiite and Iran and they started paving the way for it by laying off a number of Shiite journalists and the rest will be laid off soon.”
The new channel’s policy was announced as “fighting the rise of Qatar, Iran and Muslim brotherhood”.
At the same time, the channel’s office in Dubai was reconstructed to become the regional headquarters in place of Baghdad’s office.
Translation: “Ahurra TV became like Al Arabiya and Sky News [UAE-controlled outlets].”
While journalists and Iraqis were outraged by the channel’s decision and new policies, the lay off did not come of a surprise to Alhurra Iraq workers. One Iraqi journalist then said: “Alhurra is turning toward Saudization, not from the people, but by the discourse and orientation.”
On social media, some users launched a boycott campaign to protest the channel’s policies and in support with the Iraqi laid off journalists.
Translation: “Guys, we need to start a boycott campaign against Alhurra channel after 34 Iraqi journalists were fired by the new administration to be replaced with non-Iraqis, with fears that the channel will follow new policies that contradicts its orientation that we are familiar with.”
US-funded Alhurra network, means “The Free” that began broadcasting after the US invasion into Iraq in 2004 with claims to provide "objective, accurate and relevant” news to its audience while "supporting democratic values." The station has always always been controversial, with many accusing it of complying to the US policies toward the Middle East.
Translation: “Who said Alhurra is free? It is all operated by US money.”
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