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US Orders Al-Jazeera Digital to Register Under FARA

October 14th, 2020 06:51

US media is report­ing that the US Depart­ment of Jus­tice has request­ed by let­ter that AJ+, the US-based Al-Jazeera online news plat­form reg­is­ter itself as a for­eign agent. Accor­ding to a CNN report:

Sep­tem­ber 16, 2020 The Jus­tice Depart­men­t’s let­ter indi­cat­ed that the Al Jazeera review has been long under­way, not­ing that the depart­ment has been in touch with AJ+ — which is an affil­i­ate based in San Fran­cis­co and Wash­ing­ton, DC, and part of the com­pa­ny backed by Qatar’s roy­al fam­i­ly — since 2018 about why it may be sub­ject to these con­straints. Since then it has col­lect­ed infor­ma­tion, includ­ing from Al Jazeera itselfThe let­ter said that AJ+ has about 80 employ­ees in the US whose salaries “are paid by funds orig­i­nat­ing with the Gov­ern­ment of Qatar” and whose work is car­ried out “at the direc­tion and con­trol” of Qatari lead­er­ship. AJ+ pub­lish­es cur­rent events on its own web­site and on var­i­ous social media platforms.

Read the rest here.

The let­ter focus­es on the ques­tion of the edi­to­r­i­al inde­pen­dence of Al-Jazeeraargu­ing that it has long been con­trolled by mem­bers of the Qatari roy­al fam­i­lyunsub­stan­ti­at­ed claims that it is inde­pen­dent of the State of Qatar, and, as per a Jan­u­ary 2020 law, is for­bid­den from pub­lish­ing “false or biased rumors, state­ments, or news, or inflam­ma­to­ry pro­pa­gan­da, domes­ti­cal­ly or abroad, with the intent to harm nation­al inter­ests, stir up pub­lic opin­ion, or infringe on the social sys­tem or the pub­lic sys­tem of the state,” with vio­la­tors fac­ing prison time.  

On its web­site, AJ+ describes itself as fol­lows:  

AJ+ is a unique dig­i­tal news and sto­ry­telling project pro­mot­ing human rights and equal­i­ty, hold­ing pow­er to account, and ampli­fy­ing the voic­es of the powerless.

In August, a group of Republi­can Sen­a­tors had urged that the US Jus­tice Depart­ment require the main media com­pa­ny Al‑Jazeera itself be required to reg­is­ter as a for­eign agent, argu­ing that Al-Jazeera advances Qatari inter­ests in the Unit­ed States. Old­er leaked US State Depart­ment cables also indi­cate that Al-Jazeera oper­ates as an arm of Qatari for­eign pol­i­cy, assert­ing that Al-Jazeera mod­i­fied its cov­er­age accord­ing to Qatar’s polit­i­cal goals and that Qatar even offered to stop broad­cast­ing in Egypt if the Egypt­ian gov­ern­ment would change its posi­tion in the Israel-Pales­tine nego­ti­a­tions. Sim­i­lar­ly, a June 2020 report pub­lished on behalf of the Embassy of the Unit­ed Arab Emi­rates found that Al-Jazeera’s cor­po­rate struc­ture is ulti­mate­ly under the con­trol of the Qatari Emir and that Its board of direc­tors is chaired by a mem­ber of the Qatari rul­ing fam­i­ly. The report addi­tion­al­ly posits that the network oper­ates to ampli­fy the Qatari for­eign pol­i­cy agen­da, act­ing very much as an influ­ence oper­a­tion not­ing:  

  • Al Jazeera per­son­nel describe their jobs as advanc­ing Qatars for­eign pol­i­cy views.
  • Qatari offi­cials describe Al Jazeera as asoft pow­ertool of Qatar and say that Al Jazeera 
      plays a defen­sive and offen­sive strate­gic role for Qatar.
  • Al Jazeeras con­tent advances Qatar’s poli­cies and inter­ests, espe­cial­ly in rela­tion to Iran,
      Hamas, and oth­er ter­ror­ist and extrem­ist groups.
  • Qatar mea­sures Al Jazeeras suc­cess in terms of its influ­ence, not profit.

The Glob­al Mus­lim Broth­er­hood Dai­ly Watch (GMBDW) had also cov­ered Al-Jazeera’s con­nec­tion to the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood, itself a transna­tion­al influ­ence oper­a­tion cov­ered by this site and which is sup­port­ed exten­sive­ly by Qatar:  

  • In May 2015, the GMBDW report­ed that a Cana­di­an Al-Jazeera jour­nal­ist who stood on tri­al in Egypt on ter­ror-relat­ed charges has alleged that Al-Jazeera were spon­sors of the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood.
  • In July 2013, the GMBDW report­ed that 22 mem­bers of the Al-Jazeera Egypt­ian bureau had resigned in protest over what they say were instruc­tions from the man­age­ment to “favor the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood”.
  • In Jan­u­ary 2009, the GMBDW  ana­lyzed the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood and pos­si­ble Hamas back­ground of Wadah Khan­far (aka Wad­dah Khan­far), the station’s for­mer Gen­er­al Man­ag­er who resigned in 2011.