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'Toxic environment': Inside Al Jazeera's staff safety meeting after Santamaria scandal

Author
Katie Harris, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Sat, 4 Jun 2022, 12:35pm
Kamahl Santamaria. (Photo / NZ Herald)
Kamahl Santamaria. (Photo / NZ Herald)

'Toxic environment': Inside Al Jazeera's staff safety meeting after Santamaria scandal

Author
Katie Harris, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Sat, 4 Jun 2022, 12:35pm

Staff at international broadcaster Al Jazeera have called out its HR department and management for allowing a "toxic environment" to "fester" for years, one insider alleged.

On Thursday staff met with the managing director of Al Jazeera English, Giles Trendle and HR specialist Kulsum Jinga, the Herald was told, to discuss working in a safe environment following accusations against TV presenter Kamahl Santamaria, who worked at the broadcaster for 16 years.

Santamaria abruptly left TVNZ's Breakfast last week after only 32 days on the job and has since been accused of acting inappropriately toward female journalists online.

An Al Jazeera staffer who was at the meeting in Doha told the Herald the allegations against Santamaria were part of a bigger issue.

The worker said "a lot" of people came forward with general stories of alleged harassment, bullying, and abuse.

They said during the meeting staff demanded accountability from HR and management for allegedly allowing a "toxic environment to fester" for years.

The worker alleged the organisation did not admit accountability, but said staff were told they would have better procedures going forward and they would "do better".

An Al Jazeera spokesperson said the company does not wish to comment publicly on what was an internal staff meeting.

However, the spokesperson said the claim that a demand for accountability "wasn't taken" is not accurate.

"Everything discussed in the meeting was taken on board and is under consideration."

Earlier this week two women come forward to the Herald alleging the former TVNZ Breakfast host behaved inappropriately with them online.

One woman, who worked with him at TV3 at the start of his career, said Santamaria messaged out of the blue several years ago saying he used to watch her in the newsroom.

Another woman, currently working in the media in New Zealand, said he sent her messages from a private Instagram account used to follow mostly women, including many Kiwi journalists.

They came forward to speak on condition of anonymity after the Herald reported claims from a former Al Jazeera colleague that Santamaria was accused of sending multiple women inappropriate messages in his previous role at Al Jazeera.

A former Al Jazeera journalist told the Herald she "fought for accountability" after one inappropriate email was brought to her attention.

TVNZ's chief executive has now ordered a review of the state broadcaster's recruitment processes, writing in an email leaked to the Herald that it was his view that their recruitment policy has not been followed consistently and needs to be reviewed.

The head of news and current affairs at TVNZ, Paul Yurisich, is on leave during the investigation into the hiring of former Breakfast host Santamaria.

Yurisich has been in the spotlight for the past week as it is understood that Yurisich recruited Santamaria from Al Jazeera, where the pair also worked together.