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 itself…The 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-Jazeera, arguing that it has long been controlled by members of the Qatari royal family, unsubstantiated 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 Qatar’s foreign policy views.
- Qatari officials describe Al Jazeera as a“soft power” tool of Qatar and say that Al Jazeera
plays “a defensive and offensive strategic role” for Qatar.
- Al Jazeera’s content advances Qatar’s policies and interests, especially in relation to Iran,
Hamas, and other terrorist and extremist groups.
- Qatar measures Al Jazeera’s 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”.