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US senators say Al Jazeera is a ‘foreign agent’ and ‘public has a right to know’

Published: Updated:

Top US lawmakers signed a formal letter calling on the US Department of Justice to list the Al Jazeera Media Network as a “foreign agent” for its content that promotes the policies of the state of Qatar, including its support for the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas.

“Qatar’s officials have said that government-controlled media is a form of “soft power.” As such, one can reasonably infer that Al Jazeera is a messaging tool for the Qatari government, and, on its behalf, has engaged in inherently political activities and sought to influence public opinion in the United States,” the June 18 letter read.

If the Qatari news network is listed as a “foreign agent” under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) enacted in 1938, it would be required to publicly disclose its relations with a foreign principal, as well as all receipts and disbursements.

The US requires all agencies, individuals and organizations controlled or funded by international governments to be registered under FARA to restrict the spreading of propaganda in the US.

The lawmakers, which include US Senator Ted Cruz, said that the network is an “agent of the Qatari government.” Among the slew of accusations cited in the letter, the lawmakers stated that Qatar’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood is clearly demonstrated on the platforms of Al Jazeera, who reportedly feature the organization in a moderate light and describe it as one that can “foster regional stability.”

They also cited the regular hosting of Hamas supporters on Al Jazeera, which is in line with Qatari policies, and stated that members of the Qatari royal family hold key positions at the network.

“Through its production and distribution of programming in the United States it (Al Jazeera) seeks to ‘influence…any section of the public within the United States with reference to formulating, adopting, or changing the domestic or foreign policies of the United States, or with reference to the political or public interests, policies, or relations’ of Qatar,” the letter read.

The lawmakers also cited the network’s growing influence in the US and globally, stating that as of May 2019, its online channel AJ+ had 11.1 million cumulative followers and subscribers on Facebook. They also said that AJ+ was ranked 40th in being the “overall creator” of cross-platform content, as opposed to the Washington Post who ranked 100th.

A similar letter was sent to the US Department of Justice in May 2018, where nineteen US congress members called for an investigation to register Al Jazeera under FARA, partly in response to an undercover documentary the network had produced about Israeli lobbying and Jewish groups in the US.

In their most recent letter, the lawmakers asked Department of Justice officials to explain why they have not required Al Jazeera or its employees to register under FARA yet.