Don’t do journalism unless you love it. If you love it, you will produce something great. If you don’t love it, find something you do love and you will be great in that.

Wadah Khanfar’s philosophy is simple but effective. If journalists love what they do, can they allow themselves to do it badly? One hopes not, but of course there are always exceptions – and doesn’t the News of the World know that now. Is that even journalism?

At the James Cameron Memorial Lecture, at which Alex Crawford of Sky News (in absentia) was awarded the annual prize for her reporting in Libya, Wadah Khanfar, recently resigned director general of AlJazeera,  gave a speech on the changing world of journalism, with a special focus on the Middle East. “Peace can only be made by democratic states,” he said. Democracy will not produce an extremist government, yes even in Egypt, but there will always be crazy voices. In the UK, we can’t deny that – after all what chance have the BNP of taking power? And Khanfar’s point was why should Egypt be any different.

“I believe in the magic of camera,” he said. “On screen, the extremists have to find rational answers.”

He told the room of journalists two stories about this year’s Arab Spring revolutions that brought him to tears at the time, one in Egypt and one in Libya. Both centred on the fervent gratitude presented to him by those caught up in the movements, for AlJazeera’s consistent, determined, relentless reporting despite government threats to journalists and satellite interference. At one  point, broadcasting was stopped for several hours in Egypt when the satellites were blocked until 14 local stations took AlJazeera’s feed and pictures were beamed into homes once more. Mr Khanfar is a strong advocate for change towards democracy and the media’s role in that.

But he was also adamant that AlJazeera would retain its objective stance even under Qatari control. If it were to swerve, “AlJazeera’s viewers would notice straight away and they would say ‘you are hypocrites’.” And it is in Qatar’s interest to keep AlJazeera as an internationally respected channel after all.