Al Jazeera: 'Fired for Protesting Anti-Semitism'

Former Al Jazeera US employee says his boss openly discriminated against women, held anti-Semitic, anti-American rants.

Ari Soffer ,

Al Jazeera head offices in Doha, Qatar
Al Jazeera head offices in Doha, Qatar

A former employee of Al Jazeera America (AJA) has claimed he was fired after protesting his boss's frequent "anti-American and anti-Semitic" rants, as well as his open discrimination against women employees.

The accusation come as ex-employee Matthew Luke, formerly AJA's director of media and archive management, is suing both Al Jazeera and his former boss Osman Mahmud for $15 million.

According to the New York PostLuke accuses Mahmud of displaying "overt misogynistic behavior and bias against women," claiming he repeatedly removed female employees from assignments and excluded them from company emails and meetings purely on the basis of their gender.

Luke's Manhattan Supreme Court suit contends the discrimination was part of a concerted effort at the Qatari-owned company to sideline women and replace them with Muslim men. He also claims Osman himself was only promoted from a relatively minor position at AJA's parent company, Al Jazeera, to head the American desk, "because of his religion, (and) nationality."

In one incident, Luke claims he was directly instructed by Osman Mahmud to exclude two women employees from an email about an ongoing project, and replace them with a male employee.

"…There was no non-discriminatory reason to remove them from the project," the suit contends. "The reason that Mr. Mahmud insisted on removing them from the project was that they are female."

The former employee alleges Mahmud regularly and openly displayed "offensive and discriminatory behavior" of other forms as well, often making "anti-Semitic" and "anti-American" comments, including a rant in which he allegedly said that "Whoever supports Israel should die a fiery death in hell!"

Employees were all aware of his behavior but afraid to act because he is so "well-connected" within Al Jazeera, the suit adds, noting that when Luke complained to the human resources director he was told "candidly" that similar complaints had also been made by other employees.

Luke says that when he was eventually fired, he was told by the company he was dismissed because he "did not fit into the company culture".

"When Mr. Luke… reported the biased and discriminatory conduct of a high-level newsroom executive, the response was to circle the wagons and fire the messenger," his attorney Jeffrey Kimmel told the New York Post.

"One would expect more from an organization whose mission statement is ‘to be recognized as the world’s leading and most trusted media network.’"

Both Mahmud nor Al Jazeera refused to comment on the allegations, the paper added.

Al Jazeera America has struggled to emulate the success of its parent company since opening up in the US in 2013. It has since pored millions of dollars of resources to improve its low ratings.