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New world of freedom in Middle East

September 24, 2011 -- Updated 1522 GMT (2322 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Wadah Khanfar says Arab regimes controlled media for propaganda use
  • He says the wired younger generation ushered in era of free expression
  • Khanfar resigned this week as director general of Al Jazeera

(CNN) -- For decades, repressive governments in the Arab world controlled the media, shaping public opinion through propaganda, according to Wadah Khanfar, who headed Al Jazeera until his resignation this week.

"Generation after generation," Khanfar said in an interview with CNN in March, people had to contend with "a security state, very harsh, very cruel, there was systematic oppression and suppression taking place."

But this year, in the form of the Arab Spring, a new mood took hold, led by a "new generation that is connected to the Internet, wired and ... (with a) proper understanding of the universal values of freedom."

Khanfar credited the young generation in Tunisia, Egypt and other nations with successfully challenging the old regime, liberating society for the exchange of alternative views. He called it, "A new horizon for people, new choices, new ways of thinking about their future because for the first time we have many alternatives, many views. ... I think Al Jazeera provided people with alternatives, with many new voices.

"We are witnessing a birth of a new era -- an era of tolerance, an era of democracy and freedom."

Khanfar spoke at the TED2011 conference in March in Long Beach, California, where he was interviewed by CNN.

Watch Khanfar's TED Talk

This week he stepped down after eight years as director general of the network, saying he had completed its international expansion and would soon announce his future plans.

Others questioned whether his resignation was prompted by reports he had toned down reporting in response to U.S. government objections.

In an interview on Al Jazeera, Khanfar said the network received constant feedback from governments and would review complaints and make changes when justified, but he denied bending to political pressure.