Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 23 September 2020

Al Jazeera channel forced to register as foreign agent in US

Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Tom Cotton and Liz Cheney pressed for action against the Qatari channel

A general view of a studio of the TV Channel Al Jazeera in Doha, Qatar. EPA
A general view of a studio of the TV Channel Al Jazeera in Doha, Qatar. EPA

The US Justice Department ordered online news channel Al Jazeera Plus to register as a foreign agent under the country’s lobbying laws.

The Justice Department acted after a finding that AJ+ engaged in political activities in the US, as defined by the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

It said the channel acted at the direction and control of the Qatari leadership.

“Despite assertions of editorial independence and freedom of expression, Al Jazeera Media Network and its affiliates are controlled and funded by the government of Qatar,” it said.

Leading members of the US Congress had written to the Justice Department to urge a review of Al Jazeera's status.

Among them were senators Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Tom Cotton, and Republican member of the House of Representatives, Liz Cheney.

In a joint letter in August, the members of Congress asked questions and said Turkish broadcaster TRT had been issued with a foreign agent notice.

They posed questions to the department, asking:

Why had it not issued a determination for Al Jazeera to register under the act?

What analysis, information, or assessment had the department undertaken so far regarding a potential determination of Al Jazeera as a foreign agent?

If the department had not considered any kind of determination relating to Al Jazeera, why not?

Were there actions the department could take to compel Al Jazeera to comply with the registration requirement?

And is there any additional legislation from Congress that the department believed was needed to ensure it could enforce the law as it relates to Al Jazeera, and similar media companies?

In the US, Al Jazeera Plus's sister network Al Jazeera America closed only three years after its launch in August 2013 as a result of low ratings.

Reports of low morale among staff, lawsuits, gender discrimination and alleged anti-Semitism also tarnished the news channel.

Updated: September 17, 2020 12:24 AM

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