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Feb. 22, 2012, 11 a.m.

Speaking Friday at MIT: Wadah Khanfar, formerly of Al Jazeera

The man who led Al Jazeera to global prominence will be speaking at the Media Lab Friday, both about the Arab Spring and the media ecosystem that surrounded it.

Attention Bostonians and Cantabrigians: You should head to the MIT Media Lab Friday evening for a remarkable event with Wadah Khanfar.

Khanfar was the main driver of one of the most compelling news-industry stories of the past decade: the growth of Al Jazeera from a single regional network to a true global player. The fact that a news network based in Qatar could have influence around the world, become essential watching during the Arab Spring, and fetch compliments from Hillary Clinton — “Viewership of Al Jazeera is going up in the United States because it’s real news” — would have seemed unthinkable 10 years ago. Khanfar — who led the Arabic-language channel starting in 2003 and the entire network of networks in 2006 — led that shift.

He left Al Jazeera in September and now leads the Sharq Forum, an international think tank focused on political and economic development in the Arab world.

Friday at the Media Lab, Khanfar will talk about the Arab Spring and the current situation in the Middle East, and I’m sure he’ll also have compelling things to say about Al Jazeera and the changing face of media, in the region and beyond. After his remarks, he’ll have a conversation with MIT’s Joi Ito and Ethan Zuckerman and take question from the audience. Here’s a link to the Media Lab page on the event; the details are below. Hope to see you there.

Wadah Khanfar: “One Year After Mubarak: The Past and Future of the ‘Arab Spring'”
Friday, February 24, 2012, 6:00pm – 7:30pm
Location: MIT Media Lab, E14 6th Floor
Speaker: Wadah Khanfar

Co-Hosts: MIT Media Lab; Center for Civic Media; the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University; Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School; Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University; Edward R. Murrow Center for Public Diplomacy at Tufts University

Wadah Khanfar is president of the Sharq Forum, an international think tank focused on political and economic development in the Arab world, and former director general of the Al Jazeera network. Under Khanfar’s leadership, Al Jazeera offered to the world a front-row seat to witness the fall of dictatorships in Tunisia and Egypt, and the wave of rebellion that swept the Arab world. A year later, Khanfar reflects on the hopes raised by the Arab Spring, the changes that have—and haven’t—taken place, and the challenges Egypt and other countries face on the road towards democracy.

Khanfar’s talk will be followed by a dialogue with Joi Ito, director of the MIT Media Lab; Ethan Zuckerman, director of MIT’s Center for Civic Media; and Mohamed Nanabhay, head of online at Al Jazeera English, as well as questions and answers with the audience.

Biography: Wadah Khanfar first appeared as a commentator on Al Jazeera shortly after the network was founded, in 1996. In that role, he developed a reputation for a willingness to report from the front lines of international conflict, managing the network’s Kabul bureau, reporting from Kurdish Iraq, and serving as bureau chief for Baghdad after the fall of Saddam Hussein. In 2003, he became managing director of Al Jazeera, and in 2006, director general. He announced his resignation from the network in September 2011, and subsequently co-founded the Sharq Foundation.

In 2011, Khanfar was one of Foreign Policy magazine’s Top 100 Global Thinkers, and headed Fast Company’s list of the 100 Most Creative People in Business. He was also named one of the most “Powerful People in the World” by Forbes magazine in 2009.

Khanfar photo by Joi Ito used under a Creative Commons license.

Joshua Benton is the senior writer and former director of Nieman Lab. You can reach him via email ( or Twitter DM (@jbenton).
POSTED     Feb. 22, 2012, 11 a.m.
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