A former Al Jazeera America exec is taking legal action against the channel, with a fired employee saying she witnessed those at the channel forgo “journalistic objectivity” to “advance a pro-Arabic/Middle Eastern agenda, often at the expense of Jewish people.”
The suit is being filed by Shannon High-Bassalik, who was formerly the senior vice president of programming and documentaries at Al Jazeera America. High-Bassalik also accused the network of discriminating against female and non-Arabic employees.
“The allegations made against Al Jazeera America are by a former employee whose conduct and performance went through a full process of investigation led by an external law firm before her employment ended, during which Ms. High-Bassalik made none of the allegations she makes in her complaint,” the channel said in a statement on Thursday.
“Al Jazeera values and respects all of its employees, and has zero tolerance of any form of discrimination,” the statement goes on.
The suit was filed in federal court in Los Angeles, and also alleges that management at the channel pushed a 9/11 conspiracy theory that the CIA was behind the 2001 attacks. High-Bassalik was fired from AJAM in February.
This new lawsuit is only the latest complaint for the troubled network. Al Jazeera America dismissed another lawsuit filed by an employee earlier this year. Former senior vice president of outreach Marcy McGinnis said she resigned to escape the “culture of fear,” and former executive vice president of corporate communications Dawn Bridges and former vice president for human resources Diana Lee also left the company, with High-Bassalik saying in her complaint that the “discriminatory and hostile work environment” drove them out.
Former CEO Ehab Al Shihabi stepped down last month amid the growing turmoil. The suit is filed against him as well as AJAM.
New CEO Al Anstey also issued a statement on the matter on Wednesday: “You’ll hear me use the word ‘integrity’ a lot internally and externally. It is the cornerstone of everything we do internally at Al Jazeera America. Respect, transparency and the best practice of management is the only standard we will adhere to, and we expect nothing less. We will, and must, stand up to scrutiny. We must be confident, and have courage in our journalism. And we must always be correct with our facts, and honest with our viewers.”
Matthew Luke, AJAM’s former director of media and archive management, said sexism and anti-Semitism were common in the newsroom in the complaint he filed after he was fired in February.
In the new suit, High-Bassalik brings up several examples in which she allegedly witnessed sexism in the newsroom, and said when female employees complained, Al Shihabi said they “were simply being emotional… asking them why they ‘didn’t love me anymore.'”
High-Bassalik used to work at NBC News and CNN, which first reported news of the lawsuit.