Friday, January 15th, 2021

GOP lawmakers want to see Al Jazeera registered as a foreign agent

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A group of Congressional Republicans is urging the Department of Justice (DOJ) to require media company Al Jazeera to register as a foreign agent.

The lawmakers said that Al Jazeera, which is owned by the Qatari government, have engaged in activities that align closely with the priorities of the Qatari government.

“As a media outlet funded and directed by a foreign sovereign, Al Jazeera is undeniably subject to this FCC registration requirement. Yet Al Jazeera has missed three consecutive FCC filing deadlines, in addition to openly defying FARA requirements, claiming without evidence that it is completely independent of the state,” the Republicans wrote in a letter to Attorney General William Barr. “A cursory scan of Al Jazeera’s coverage will produce more than sufficient evidence to refute Al Jazeera’s frequent claims of editorial independence. Mohammad Fahmy, who previously served as the Cairo bureau chief for Al Jazeera English, explicitly stated that Al Jazeera ‘coordinated and takes directions from the [Qatar] government,’ and acts, at least in part, as ‘a mouthpiece for Qatari intelligence.’”

The letter was authored and signed by U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Tom Cotton (R-AR) along with Reps. Lee Zeldin (R-NY), Liz Cheney (R-WY), Brian Mast (R-FL), Steve Chabot (R-OH), Peter King (R-NY), Jack Bergman (R-MI) and Ann Wagner (R-MO).

The lawmakers said other foreign state-owned media organizations have recently been required to register as foreign agents.

“Recently, we have seen determinations by DOJ to require organizations to register, such as Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TRT) and Qatar-America Institute. We appreciate these actions that ensure FARA is rigorously enforced to protect U.S. national interests from the undue influence of foreign nations. In order to ensure this law is robustly enforced, we request that DOJ require Al Jazeera, the media network owned and funded by the state of Qatar, to register under FARA for the below reasons,” they wrote.

The Republicans asked Barr to answer why the DOJ has not issued a determination for Al Jazeera to register under FARA; what analysis, information, or assessment the DOJ has undertaken thus far regarding a potential determination of Al Jazeera as a foreign agent; why the DOJ has not considered any kind of determination relating to Al Jazeera; whether there is any additional legislation from Congress that the DOJ believes is needed to ensure that it can enforce the law as it relates to Al Jazeera and similarly situated media companies.