Qatar-based satellite news network Al Jazeera’s website was reportedly hacked by pro-Syrian government group Al- Rashedon or “the guided ones” on Tuesday, according to sources.
Visitors to the website saw a Syrian flag and a statement by the hackers group denouncing the channel's critical coverage of the Syrian revolution which began last year in March.
"This is a response to your position against the people and government of Syria, especially your support of the armed terrorist groups and spreading false fabricated news," read the group’s statement on aljazeera.net. "Your website has been hacked, and this is our response to you."
An Al Jazeera spokesman said to Doha Centre for Media Freedom that "some visitors to our websites faced disruption after external DNS servers were compromised. The company that operates them quickly resolved this, though some users may continue to experience issues for a while longer. We thank our online community for their patience and support."
Most of the viewers of the channel were shocked by the incident. Jaimee Haddad, a journalism sophomore at Northwestern University in Qatar, gets most of her news from Al Jazeera but was directed to a blocked page when she tried accessing the website last evening. “I found out through Facebook and when I checked the website from the university campus it was blocked, but it was working fine from my home,” she said.
The hackers used the DNS poisoning system which directs the visitors to a different page than the original website. This is a reason why some users were able to see the hacked webpage and others saw the website functioning normally.
Fatema Al-Hadad, a Qatari resident is worried that this may continue. “I think they wouldn’t stop and more hacking would come until the conflict is over. I am afraid same thing like this would happen to a governmental website such as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs because of Qatar’s stand towards Syria people.”
This is not the only incident when a news networks website was hacked. Last month, the Reuters blog was hacked by an unknown group which wrote a false story about the death of Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal.