A senior Al Jazeera America manager is facing serious allegations of sexist and anti-Semitic discrimination after an employee filed suit Tuesday for wrongful termination.
Matthew Luke is seeking $15 million in damages from the Qatar-owned network. The complaint filed in New York state court accuses Osman Mahmud of sexist discrimination, such as removing female employees from projects and excluding women from emails and meetings related to their assignments. Mahmud also allegedly made anti-American and anti-Semitic comments, such as "whoever supports Israel should die a fiery death in hell."
According to the lawsuit, Luke was fired 10 days after filing a report regarding Mahmud's behavior to Al Jazeera's HR department.
Mahmud denied the allegations in an interview with the Washington Post.
Among the other claims, Mahmud ordered a senior news official to replace a photographer, an Israeli national, with a Palestinian who was less qualified.
When the official complained, she was reassigned to a less prestigious position and replaced by a male colleague. The lawsuit describes Al Jazeera America's chief executive as believing a correspondent's reporting was too pro-Israel, even though Al Jazeera is notorious for its highly critical stance against the Jewish state.
The network's Arabic and English outlets have been plagued by reports that its biases trump its stated objective of providing objective journalism. Nearly two dozen staffers resigned in protest of the network's sympathetic coverage toward the Muslim Brotherhood after the 2013 ouster of Mohamed Morsi as Egypt's president.
In January, in the immediate aftermath of the massacre of cartoonists, other staffers and police at the satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo, internal Al Jazeerah emails obtained by the National Review show executive producer Salah-Aldeen Khadr urging staff members to emphasize the magazine's "racist caricatures" in their coverage.
He suggested they question if this was "really an attack on 'free speech,'" and whether the spontaneous "I Am Charlie" signs held posted and displayed by outraged French citizens was an "alienating slogan."
"Was this really an attack on 'Free speech'?" one Khadr email said. "Who is attacking free speech here exactly? Does an attack by 2-3 guys on a controversial magazine equate to a civilizational attack on European values..? Really?"
The "Je Suis Charlie" (I am Charlie) signs were counter-productive, he claimed. "You don't actually stick it to the terrorists by insulting the majority of Muslims by reproducing more cartoons – you actually entrench the very animosity and divisions these guys seek to sow."
That sentiment was echoed by Qatar-based reporter Mohamed Vall Salem, who wrote, "what Charlie Hebdo did was not free speech it was an abuse of free speech in my opinion, go back to the cartoons and have a look at them!
"It' snot [sic] about what the drawing said, it was about how they said it. I condemn those heinous killings, but I'M NOT CHARLIE."