Al-Jazeera memo to attacked newspaper: ‘It’s not all about you!’

Leaked emails from inside the Al Jazeera network show staff from the Qatar-based channel criticizing the “I am Charlie” movement that began shortly after Wednesday’s attack on the Paris-based Charlie Hebdo newspaper that killed 12.

aljazeeracharliehebdo0111According to emails leaked to National Review online, Al Jazeera English Editor and Executive Producer Salah-Aldeen Khadr sent out an email to staff discussing how the news organization would handle coverage of the “I am Charlie” hashtag, which swept the world.

In the email, Khadr asks “is this really an attack on free speech?” and requests discussion on whether or not the hashtag was instead “an alienating slogan.”

Khadr writes:

“Defending freedom of expression in the face of oppression is one thing, insisting on the right to be obnoxious and offensive just because you can is infantile …

“Baiting extremists isn’t bravely defiant when your manner of doing so is more significant in offending millions of moderate people as well. And within a climate where violent response — however illegitimate — is a real risk, taking a goading stand on a principle virtually no one contests is worse than pointless: it’s pointlessly all about you.”

Responses by Al Jazeera staff varied among those located in the United States, who supported the freedom of speech, to those coming out of the Arab-based office who called the work of Charlie Hebdo offensive.

Tom Akerman, a journalist from the English-based office, responded to Khadr’s request for discussion saying, “… the murderers cannot be allowed for a single moment to think that their strategy can succeed.”

But Mohamed Vall Salem, who reported from the Arab-based office before being transferred to the English office, had a different take.

“…  I guess if you encourage people to go on insulting 1.5 billion people about their most sacred icons, then you just want more killings because as I said in 1.5 billion there will remain some fools who don’t abide by the laws or know about free speech.”

Salem also went on to suggest that the practices of Charlie Hebdo were not freedom of speech but abuse of speech saying, “I condemn those heinous killings, but I’m not Charlie.”’

CORRECTION: This article was originally published under an incorrect byline.

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Michele Holt

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