The U.S. Department of Justice said Monday that the Al Jazeera Media Network, a Doha-based international news organization, “is an agent of the Qatari government.” The DOJ has ordered the US-based social media network sector, AJ +, to register as a foreign agent, a move the media says will hamper its journalism.
AJ + operates “under the direction and control” of Qatari rulers, wrote Jay Bratt, DOJ chief of counterintelligence and export control, in a September 14 letter from Mother Jones. “Despite claims of editorial independence and freedom of expression, Al Jazeera Media Network and its affiliates are controlled and funded by the Government of Qatar,” Bratt said.
The designation follows a push for years by lobbyists employed by the UAE autocratic government, which has long disliked the critical coverage it receives from Al Jazeera. This effort has been led by Akin Gump, a major law firm and a registered foreign agent for the UAE. Its employees, including former House Foreign Affairs Chair Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican in Florida, stepped up their Al Jazeera-related work this year, releasing a report in July and contacting many legislators and legislative aides, according to Akin Gump’s federal records.
As of 2018, Republican members of Congress have sent three letters requesting DOJ oblige Al Jazeera to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, better known as FARA. The network “engages in political activities and disseminates information in the United States that advances Qatar’s interests,” Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) And Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) wrote in an August 7 letter to Attorney General Bill Barr. Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) And Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) Also signs.
In June 2017, the United Arab Emirates, along with Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern states, imposed a blockade on Qatar. They too it is said that considered invading Qatar, until senior US officials including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defense James Mattis persuaded them. The blockade, which remains in place, damaged the small state’s economy and restricted its citizens’ travel. The UAE has said it will lift the blockade only if Qatar agrees, among other things, to shut down Al Jazeera.
The UAE dislikes Al Jazeera in part because of the narrative offered by the network throughout the Arab and Islamic world that exposes audiences to a perspective that is very different from the messages the UAE has sought to impose on the region since the Arab Spring. , said Kristian Ulrichsen, a Middle East policy researcher at the Rice Universitys Baker Institute for Public Policy. “In the eyes of Qatari critics, Al Jazeera has also become so synonymous with Qatar in the regional and international mind that any obstacle to Al Jazeera cannot but be perceived as a blow to Qatar.”
Akin Gump and other lobbyists have reportedly received more than $ 56 million in fees from the UAE since 2017, when the blockade began, according to data filed with the DOJ. Akin Gump’s latest revelation of his lobbying contacts cites a wide range of lawmakers regarding the “accuracy and transparency of the Qatari government-owned media” and “the influence on US policy by the regional regional media and groups of others”.
A spokesman for Akin Gump did not substantially answer questions about the firm’s performance. The offices of Zeldin, Rubio, Cotton, Cruz and Cheney did not answer questions.
In a statement Tuesday, an Al Jazeera spokesman argued that the DD had essentially helped the UAE fulfill its goal of crippling the media. He noted that network advocates have corresponded with the DOJ on the issue since June 2018 and that Al Jazeera received Bratt FARA ‘s letter “the day before”. The UAE signed a diplomatic agreement with Israel that was mediated by the Trump administration . The spokesman suggested the two developments may be related, but he did not provide evidence to support this.
Hobbling Al Jazeera was one of the main conditions of the UAE blockade against Qatar and the Department of Justice just gave the UAE what they wanted, “the spokesman said.” We are deeply disappointed by the Department’s decision, which falls contrary to the extensive factual data we provided demonstrating that the FARA registration is not applicable to AJ +. The legal structure, editorial structure, editorial policies, budgeting process and content of AJ + clearly show its independence. We are reviewing our resolve and considering our options.
Bratt’s involvement is unusual. Comparable letters guiding other news organizations to register under FARA were sent by the head of the DOJ FARA unit, not by national security officials like Bratt. The Department of Justice did not answer questions.
Bratt’s letter focuses on Al Jazeera funding and structure, stating that the Qatari government “can and can withdraw or limit funding at any time” and stating that the Emir of Qatar controls the network by appointing his board. Al Jazeera says the same criteria would dictate that other state-funded news organizations, such as the BBC and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, should register under FARA. Those media outlets are not currently required to register, but the DOJ has asked several others, including Russia’s RT and Sputnik, Turkish public broadcaster TRT, and five Chinese media outlets to do so.
Bratt’s letter also argues that AJ + publishes articles inviting its audience to ask “what behavior constitutes terrorism; demonstrate a contempt for the term ‘Islamic Terror;’ adopt a positive view of Iran; show support for the Palestinian cause and question US support for Israel; reflect a critical position on the war in Yemen [where the UAE and Saudi Arabia have bombed forces backed by Iran to assist their own proxies on the ground]; and [promote] a sympathetic view from Qatar of the Saudi-led embargo against Qatar. “
Al Jazeera refutes this characterization and points to a commissioned study that found that 93 percent of AJ + content focuses on U.S. domestic affairs, such as gun violence and protests against police abuse.
FARA, a 1938 law aimed at forcing anyone working to advance the interests of foreign states to publicly disclose their activities, is not supposed to be used to punish points of sale for the political perspectives reflected in the reporting Theirs. The DOJ letter says Al Jazeera content shows that it is promoting the views of the Qatari government. But the noise of apparent political sins also echoes the points of talks between the UAE and its lobbyists, who argue that the network’s perspective is too critical of U.S. allies and too friendly with America’s enemies.
“Foreign agents of the UAE are paying tens of millions of dollars to meet the objectives of the blockade through other means, including improperly arming US laws like FARA,” an Al Jazeera spokesman said.
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