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Qatar's Al Jazeera to Lay off 500 Employees Worldwide - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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The logo of Qatar-based Al Jazeera satellite news channel is seen in Doha February 7, 2011. REUTERS/ Fadi Al-Assaad

The logo of Qatar-based Al Jazeera satellite news channel is seen in Doha February 7, 2011. REUTERS/ Fadi Al-Assaad

Qatar’s Al Jazeera broadcasting network is set to cut about 500 employees or more than 10 percent of its staff worldwide, it announced on Sunday reflecting financial pressures on the tiny Gulf state due to low global prices for oil and natural gas.

Most of the layoffs are expected in the broadcaster’s home base at its Doha headquarters, according to a statement from Al Jazeera, which is controlled by Qatar’s royal family. Before the layoffs, the network had about 4,000 staff, a spokesman said.

Mostefa Souag, Al Jazeera’s acting director general, said the network needed to conduct the layoffs to maintain its position in the industry “in light of the large-scale changes under way in the global media landscape”.
He said the network had spent months evaluating its options.

“Based on this review, we have embarked on a workforce optimization initiative that will allow us to evolve our business operation in order to maintain a leading position and continue our recognized commitment to high quality, independent and hard-hitting journalism around the world.”

He added: “While our decision is consistent with those being made across the media industry worldwide, it was difficult to make nonetheless. However, we are confident it is the right step to ensure the Network’s long-term competitiveness and reach.”

In an email sent to employees on Sunday, and republished in Doha News, Souag added: “As you know, other leading media organizations across the world are being forced to redefine their business models as well, with negative impact on their staff. Al-Jazeera is no exception.”

Al Jazeera was launched in 1996 as an Arabic-language news channel. It was part of Qatar’s efforts to turn its economic power into political influence, and it grew to have a global effect and win millions of viewers across the Arab world by offering free-wheeling, uncensored debate rarely seen on other local broadcasters. An English-language channel was launched in 2006.

But Qatar appears to have toned down its diplomatic profile under emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, who took power in 2013 and has spoken about the need for austerity at a time of low oil prices.

Al Jazeera also has faced increasing competition in its home region, and suspicion among many governments over the air time it gave to Islamist groups in Syria, Libya and elsewhere.

In January, Al Jazeera scaled back its ambitions after announcing it would close its U.S. cable news outlet less than three years after its high-profile launch. It cited economic challenges in the U.S. media market.

Al Jazeera is the latest state-funded institution to cut staff as the government reacts to the slump in oil and gas revenue. There were widespread layoffs in the energy sector last year. In January this year, state-owned health provider Hamad Medical Corp laid off hundreds of employees.

Asharq Al-Awsat English

Asharq Al-Awsat English

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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