Syria’s Electronic Warriors Hit Al Jazeera

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Al-Jazeera's chairman Sheikh Hamad bin Thamer al-Thani, speaks during a ceremony marking the 15th anniversary of the launching of the Qatar-based Arabic satellite news channel in Doha, on 1 November 2011. (Photo: AFP - Karim Jaafar)

By: Wissam Kanaan

Published Friday, February 24, 2012

Emails said to reveal dismay among Al-Jazeera staff over its “biased and unprofessional” coverage of Syria have been leaked by pro-Assad hackers.

Damascus – On Wednesday, the entire staff of the Al Jazeera network allegedly received an email instructing them to change their computer and email passwords.

Earlier in the week, the network’s server had been hacked by the self-styled Syrian Electronic Army, and some of its secrets were released to the media.

The major find to be made public was an email exchange between anchorwoman Rula Ibrahim and Beirut-based reporter Ali Hashem. The emails seemed to indicate widespread disaffection within the channel, especially over its coverage of the crisis in Syria.

Ibrahim wrote to her colleague saying that she had "turned against the revolution" in Syria after realizing that the protests would "destroy the country and lead to a civil war.” She went on to deride the opposition Free Syrian Army, which she described as "a branch of al-Qaeda."

Ibrahim also complained about the attitudes of various colleagues at the channel’s Doha headquarters, saying some of them “have refused to greet me ever since the outbreak of events in Syria because they hold a grudge against my sect.”

Hashem responded sympathetically, saying he had opted to sit on the fence after sending the channel footage of armed men clashing with the army which he had witnessed while reporting from northeastern Lebanon. He said that after he submitted the video, he was told to return to Beirut on the grounds that he was exhausted.

In her response, Ibrahim once again protested that she had “been utterly humiliated. They wiped the floor with me because I embarrassed Zuheir Salem, spokesperson for Syria’s Muslim Brothers. As a result, I was prevented from doing any Syrian interviews, and threatened with [a] transfer to the night shift on the pretext that I was making the channel imbalanced.”

Ibrahim also spoke of how Syrian activists invited onto Al Jazeera use terms of sectarian incitement on air, “which Syrians understand very well.”

Hashem wondered in response where the channel’s head of news, Ibrahim Hilal, stood in all this. Ibrahim answered that he was “stuck between a rock and a hard place: the agenda and professionalism..."

This conversation was broadcast in full on the state Syrian News Channel, which also interviewed the hackers who broke through Al Jazeera's information system.

However, the scoop did not attract the attention that had been hoped for. Like other official Syrian media, the channel is not widely watched and has suffered a loss of viewer confidence.

Thus the report was barely noticed, and Al Jazeera itself completely disregarded it.

Sources in the channel confirmed that the administration had taken no action over the incident, not even approaching Hashem or Ibrahim about it. The sources said it was generally assumed that the pro-regime hackers had accomplices inside the channel, as they would not have otherwise been able to get round its system’s sophisticated security measures.

The same sources said some Al Jazeera staffers were relieved that the email exchange had been leaked, "because it exposed the station's biased and unprofessional coverage Syria.”

They also confirmed an allegation Ibrahim had reportedly made in one of her emails: That Ahmad Ibrahim, who is in charge of the channel’s Syria coverage, is the brother of Anas al-Abdeh, a leading member of the opposition Syrian National Council. He allegedly stopped using his family name to avoid drawing attention to the connection.

The sources said that among the issues concerning Al Jazeera journalists was pressure to start employing the term “martyr” when referring to slain Syrian opposition supporters, but not regime loyalists or members of the security forces.

They said two camps had emerged within the newsroom: one, headed by Hilal, wanting professional coverage of the coverage, and another “who believe they are part of this war and do not hesitate to show that on air.”

The sources said that as part of this rivalry, Facebook groups had appeared which were devoted to targeting Al Jazeera journalists "who are guilty of trying to be objective."

For example, a fierce campaign was launched on social media websites demanding the sacking of Lebanese anchorman Hasan Jammoul. He had challenged an opposition activist to explain in an interview why the shelling of the city Homs was focused on Baba Amr and not other neighborhoods.

Neither Ibrahim, Hashem, or Hilal were available for comment when contacted by Al-Akhbar.

Yet the media-electronic war between the two camps seems set to escalate. Syrian President Bashar Assad himself has praised the Syrian Electronic Army, both in his recent speech at Damascus University and in meetings with popular delegations.

In addition to hacking into Al Jazeera’s emails, the group got into the channel’s breaking news subscription service – and circulated a false story to subscribers that the Emir of Qatar had died of a stroke. This was supposedly a response to the earlier hacking of the messaging service of the pro-regime Syrian al-Dunya channel.

Following the Army’s latest “victory,” ethical standards and the violation of journalists’ privacy seem to be far from anyone’s considerations. It seems this war will spare no one.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.


I have boycotted Aljazeera a long time missed the fun of hearing about the demise of Emir, false as it may have been.

The Qatari channel is finished, they should be banned from every muslim country for inciting hatred and criminal activity, we support Bashar in Somalia and we hate the lousy Emir of Qatar.

we hope he burns in Jahhanaba.

GCC Arabs are a disgrace to all Arabs. Libya should never have happened and maybe Syria should help in the rebuilding of Libya as a 'brother/sister nation' and re-fortify alliances with the Jamahiriya? Whatever, by now Arabs are probably so cynical that its better to discuss the issue than act. I wonder, given the amount of hatred there is for the GCC leadership whether "regime change" is almost certain? Did you see the faces of the Saudi's and the Qataris in Tunisia? They know if they fail in Syria Libya will have been in vain because the rats will have no where to hide with Syria freed up for larger action and the resistence can be put on a drip. There are so many problems with these guys and Al Jazeera can be officially declared a sister company with FOX news in America. Mind you, it was clever how they came across as the 'New Arab media'. I never liked their format. I have the same suspicions with Press TV because although it provides an alternative slant these things cropped up around the same time (RT, Press TV, Al Jazeera). Games on people and Arabs are on the back foot. Also Press TV's coverage of Libya was bizarre given its "anti-Imperial" agenda but i'm firmly in the belief that Iran subscribes to the Clash of Civilizations ideal which is rather regressive than progressive. Phantom dreams channelled through phantom channels - only with real-world consequences.

The article is too lengthy for this format.



You should be put on trial

So pathetic, at once confessing the biased coverage of al Jazeera on Syria by proving such email exchanges between staff did actually take place, but you have nothing to hide because you are shameless, and at another you cry for journalism and privacy of journalists.. You didn't leave any respect for journalism conducted by journos like yours, and you didn't honour a single ethic of Journalism.

The Syrian state channels suffered drops in audiences? Is that the reason why you closed your offices in Australia? Because Syrian State TVs are the ones who lost audience? Maybe you didn't read the analysis by a satellite channel firm that confirmed Syrian State Satellite Channel exceeded your audience on the day of broadcasting the captured defector Hussein Al Harmouch. & Since when you compare a state run TV channels with 'private' channels? I'll give you a hint: Al Jazeera is the actual Qatar State Information Ministry (mouthpiece), it's run by a ruler's family member, funded by the foreign ministry and even its advertisements are mainly for Qatar state owned companies: Qatar Airways, QAFAQ, Qatar Petroleum...!

The hackers had accomplice inside Al Jazeera that's how they managed to get in your servers? You can't just confirm your ignorance and their superiority? Unless you want to tell your audience that the SEA ('self-styled' Syrian Electronic Army) has also accomplices in Anonymous servers where they managed to hack their server in retaliation to hacking the Syrian ministry of defence general website, or in the US Pentagon where they defaced many of its websites..

You just can't get over the idea that a small private owned channel has defaced your holy channel and with all the resources you exhausted over a decade to build credibility among Arabs, Addounia satellite channel has actually stripped you of every single credibility you have, maybe your 'eye witnesses' are not telling you that you became a standard for lies on the Syrian streets: if someone in a conversation wants to discredit his counterpart's story in a normal chat he'd tell him: You're becoming like al Jazeera.. and if the story is way out of imagination like a flying elephant he'd tell him: you are in par with al jazeera, or a story like your eye witness reporter once said: bodies without heads are walking around in Homs!!

Maybe some westerns would still believe you, those who fall for the same lies once after another just for a simple reason: They're 'Foolable'.

Bin Jiddo left for much the same. Why is everyone so shocked? Qatar-owned Al Jazeera is no pure-bred network.

العالم يراقب

You can bash Al Jazeera or hack its website all you want - but we as well as the citizen journalists on the ground will continue to expose the truth - watch us, Bashar.

Citizen journalists like young Danny Abdul-Dayem, the pro-FSA propagandist, who was feted by the Western media for his courage? A true hero had it not been discovered that all his reports were stage-managed fakes. Check-out how he was exposed on "You Tube".

"we as well as the citizen journalists" -i.e. USA stooges and GCC- payed lackeys? AJ IGNORED Khader Adnan while he was dying for human dignity of Palestinians in Zionist jail, because they were busy serving their masters - best friends of Zionism and foes of the resistance. Were Assad the obedient lackey of USA imperialism and Zionism as Emir of Qatar is, or Saudi illiterate murdering king, or Bachrain murdering king, he would be safe, and praised by Obama the butcher of Arabs, like all thous dictators are praised.

Hi, can you pls link the original leaked file so we can read these emails? would really appreciate to link to the original source, thanks

that link doesnt seem to support the story at all?

Yes that link does not show the story. Can anyone provide the right link? I like to read it too..

Robert M. Harrison
Tampa injury lawyer

I have boycotted Aljazeera a long time missed the fun of hearing about the demise of Emir, false as it may have been.

Is there any prrof of this mail exchange? or is everybody going on the say-so of people who have every incentive to lie?

The "syrian electronic army" have already posted videos of "hackers" doctoring screenshots to fake emails. Is this not just one of those cases?

Do you ask for proofs from the mainstream media? Do you e-mail CNN, BBC, Al-Jazeera, ABC and all the others and ask them to prove that what they are reported is the truth?

Start asking them if you still watch all the lies they tell.

Why the independent journalists that were working in Libya were threat to death by CNN?
Search Susan Lindauer and Lizzie Phelan.
The social scientists Mahdi Nazemroaya was also threatened and some journalists are being killed to death in Libya.

That link doesnt support the claims at all?

"ethical standards and the violation of journalists’ privacy" - what about wikileaks? Are they non-ethical? The e-mails were NOT about private matters, but about politics - very dirty and bloody politics. To expose the complicity with the NATO/GCC crimes against Syria IS moral.

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