Another Ex – Al Jazeera America Staffer Lawsuit
CNN’s Tom Kludt writes about another lawsuit filed by a former Al Jazeera America staffer. This is one I would keep an eye on because of who filed it. Longtime blog readers…if there are any still out there (Bueller? Bueller? Anyone?)…will recognize the name Shannon High as one this blog regularly took shots at in the late 2000s. She went from MSNBC to CNN where she EP’d CNN’s 6am morning show. Regardless of what I thought of High’s accomplishments, particularly while at MSNBC, there is no doubt in my mind that High is a network veteran who wants to stay in the game. Network vets who want to stay in the game don’t file lawsuits like this. Whatever indignation may have happened, they bite hard and move on to the next job.
So the fact that a person like High filed this suit says a lot to me.
According to High-Bassalik, Al Shihabi admitted that he pushed for the channel to embrace a pro-Arabic viewpoint because he believed it would “please Doha,” a reference to the Qatari capital that serves as the home to Al Jazeera Media Network.
High-Bassalik claims that when she and others complained about these orders, arguing that AJAM’s cable contracts in the United States required the channel to remain neutral, Al Shihabi raised his voice and said that anyone who objected would no longer be welcome at the company. He responded to such objections by saying that the company “was not Al Jazeera America but ‘Al Jazeera in America,'” according to the complaint.
High-Bassalik’s complaint includes many of the same allegations in the lawsuit filed against AJAM earlier this year by Matthew Luke, the channel’s former director of media and archive management who was also fired in February.
Like Luke, High-Bassalik claims that sexism and anti-Semitism were pervasive in the newsroom.
The complaint describes the manner in which Al Shihabi allegedly discriminated against female employees. High-Bassalik says that Al Shihabi “repeatedly diminished the responsibilities” of women at the company.
She claims that Al Shihabi frequently excluded female employees from important meetings, and at times would “leave meetings where female employees were giving presentations and [state] that he would only return when such employees had stopped speaking.”
When female employees complained, Al Shihabi would publicly yell at them, according to the complaint.
High-Bassalik says Al Shihabi treated such complaints as if those female employees “were simply being emotional… asking them why they ‘didn’t love me anymore.'”
After raising a series of complaints about this alleged editorial interference and employment discrimination, High-Bassalik says she was suspended in December pending an investigation and that the company refused to tell her what the investigation was about.
High-Bassalik says that the company informed her in February that her job had been terminated because she was “purportedly in default” of her contract because “she ostensibly was an ineffective leader and did not get along with other employees.”