I can claim to have known Al Jazeera longer than anyone else; I first saw it in 1995 as a reporter on assignment for the BBC; I walked in as it was being built, a concrete shell full of busy laborers who unbeknownst to them were building what would become an Arab phenomenon. A year later I became one of its founding staff, arriving in Doha on a humid summer evening.
In the ensuing years I had many firsts at the channel.
Today I walked out of Al Jazeera for the last time, ending my 15-year association with it, a total of 5458 working days.
Next stop: Human Rights Watch.
Taking a leaf from Gaddafi's notebook, the following video purports to show what I assume are supposed to be hallucinogenic pills destined for distribution to protesters in Syria and intercepted by the regime's ever-alert security services.
Now who would do such a thing?
Ta da! The pills are packed in bags bearing the logo of: Al Jazeera! Who else! And you hear the intelligence guys saying, "Let the Syrian people see... This is Al Jazeera? Are these ethics? Is this the freedom they want?"
I've worked at Al Jazeera for the past 15 years, heck I helped launch it in 1996, but it never entered my mind that the real reason for Al Jazeera's success is that we're drug dealers!
Whoever said that the phrase "intelligence service" is a contradiction in terms was right!
Today marks the 14th anniversary of the launch of Al Jazeera. I am proud to be one of the original founding staff of this network. In my time I've been involved with many groundbreaking events and projects; the War of Lebanon documentary, the first of its kind in the Arab world, various news events and I'm happy to be the first to produce a program in December 2009 where the archive material was downloaded online in its entirety. No tapes were involved.
My eldest son was the first to be born to an Al Jazeera employee.
And I hold the distinction among my founding colleagues of having seen Al Jazeera when it was nothing but a concrete shell as it was being built! That was back in the Spring of 1996 when I was in Doha on assignment for the BBC.
As I write these words a celebration is being held at Al Jazeera to mark the 14th anniversary and honor those who have been there for 5 years. So congratulations to them.
But for me Al Jazeera transcends celebrations; I wish it many truly happy and successful returns and hope it becomes the beacon of progress in a region so filled with trouble and yet positively brimming with promising potential.
A man on a long journey through a perpetual desert.
The opinions expressed in this blog are mine and mine alone. They do not represent the views of any of my employers, past, present or future.