Al-Jazeera to slash 500 jobs, many in its Qatar headquarters

The Associated Press

FILE- In This Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2006 file photo, Al Jazeera English Channel staff prepare for the broadcast inside the news room in Doha, Qatar. Al-Jazeera, the Qatar-based broadcaster, said Sunday, March 27, 2016 it is slashing about 500 jobs worldwide little more than two months after shutting its U.S. offshoot. (AP Photo/ Hamid Jalaudin, File)

Associated Press

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By ADAM SCHRECK, Associated Press

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Al-Jazeera, the Qatar-based broadcaster, said Sunday it is slashing about 500 jobs worldwide a little more than two months after shuttering its U.S. offshoot.

The cutbacks come as 2022 World Cup host Qatar refocuses its spending priorities amid a steep drop in prices for oil and gas, the backbone of the OPEC nation’s economy.

The Al-Jazeera Media Network described the cuts as part of a “workforce optimization initiative” tied to an evolving media landscape.

They will enable Al-Jazeera to “maintain a leading position and continue our recognized commitment to high quality, independent and hard-hitting journalism around the world,” acting Director General Mostefa Souag said in a statement.

The network did not make officials available for further comment, but confirmed it currently employs about 4,500 people. Most of those losing their jobs are based in Qatar.

Al-Jazeera began as an Arabic-language news channel in 1996 with backing from Qatar’s then-emir, Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani. It now has multiple channels, including an international English-language service, and today boasts more than 70 bureaus worldwide.

It struggled to crack into the U.S. market, however. It announced in January it was shutting down its Al Jazeera America cable news network, launched in October 2013, after struggling to attract viewers and convince cable and satellite companies to carry it.

Like other major energy producers, Qatar is under pressure from a steep slide in oil prices that has pushed crude to less than $40 a barrel from more than $100 in the summer of 2014. Several prominent Qatari employers have cut jobs in recent months, and authorities in January hiked subsidized gasoline prices by at least 30 percent.

Even with cutbacks in government spending, Qatar this year expects to run a budget deficit of more than $12 billion.

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Follow Adam Schreck on Twitter at www.twitter.com/adamschreck

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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