Journalists on the English-language news site are considering a mass walkout in protest at the sacking of British editor Yvonne Ridley.

Staff have been deeply angered by the treatment of Ms Ridley, who was dismissed without explanation on 12 November.

A former colleague of Ms Ridley, who asked not to be named, told dotJournalism that many Al-Jazeera staff are unhappy with working conditions.

"We are absolutely devastated at the loss of Yvonne - she was one of our best editors.

"If they can sack a high-profile established journalist with an international reputation - they can sack any of us. We feel very vulnerable.

"We are all considering our positions."

Qatar-based Al-Jazeera worked hard to establish a solid editorial team for the English-language site, recruiting several journalists from the Guardian and the BBC.

Ms Ridley, who has more than 25 years' experience as a print journalist, is a well-known critic of the invasion of Iraq, and the decision to sack her is rumoured to have been triggered by pressure from the US government.

"I don’t believe in conspiracy theories - and initially I dismissed the suggestion that US pressure might be involved," said the reporter.

"But the events of the past few weeks have changed that.

"Yvonne has fabulous contacts and managed to get photos of US soldiers searching Iraqi children - but we were told not to publish them."

The Qatar-based news channel launched the full English-language site in September this year and attracted an international audience seeking an alternative news viewpoint.

Recently, the site published a cartoon depicting the World Trade Centre towers as two petrol pumps - but the illustration was withdrawn after a call from the Whitehouse.

Reporters were also surprised to see US Embassy staff being guided around the newsroom.

"Al-Jazeera does not present biased news - we just present a different understanding on the war from people that are live on the front line," our source at the site said.

"We report as accurately as we can - and we don’t dress up the news."

Al-Jazeera is financed by Sheikh Hamad Bin-Khalifah Al Thani, the Emir of Qatar. Qatar is one of the richest countries in the world, and the economy is dependent on oil and gas revenues.

The country is also a key military base for US troops engaged in action in Iraq.

US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld last week described both Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya as 'violently anti-coalition'. Both have been criticised for broadcasting tapes of Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein.

Around 30 staff are rumoured to have left the Al-Jazeera news channel in the past two months to work for Al-Arabiya, the Dubai-based rival.

Ms Ridley, who said she was 'shocked and surprised' at the decision, is planning to sue the news channel for the remaining wages of her two-year contract.

In October, she established the first Middle East branch of the UK’s National Union of Journalists, although this is not believed to be related to her dismissal.

"I really rate online news because it’s instant and constantly changing. It has such a quick turnaround that the deadlines are constant - but achievable," she told dotJournalism.

"This experience hasn’t put me off the internet - I think it’s an exciting medium and very undervalued."

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