November 24, 2023 | The Algemeiner

Al Jazeera Must Register as a Foreign Agent of Qatar

November 24, 2023 | The Algemeiner

Al Jazeera Must Register as a Foreign Agent of Qatar

Standing in a Gaza hospital this month, an elderly man with a bandaged arm told an Al Jazeera reporter a simple fact: “As for the resistance [Hamas], they come and hide among the people.” The man added: “They can go to hell and hide there.” The reporter promptly turned his back on the man and changed the subject.

Al Jazeera presents itself as a fully professional news-gathering organization. It says its mission is to provide “accurate, in-depth and compelling content that upholds the value of truth.” In practice, the network toes the line of its patron, the state of Qatar.

Qatar sponsors Hamas politically and financially, so it’s hardly surprising that an Al Jazeera correspondent would shut down an interview when it started to reflect poorly on Hamas. Indeed, Al Jazeera’s reporting after October 7 was incendiary enough that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken reportedly told the Qatari prime minister to “turn down the volume on Al Jazeera’s coverage” of the war in Gaza, because he knows the country has the power to do so.

The Qatari royal family established Al Jazeera in 1996. Today, the network operates across the globe in Arabic, English, and other languages.Qatar speaks through the network to audiences worldwide, but Al Jazeera does not dare question the autocratic rule of Qatar’s royal family.

The absence of scrutiny extends to the royal family’s relationships with a range of terrorist organizations. Hamas maintains a political office in Doha and receives over $100 million from Qatar every year. The leaders of Hamas live a life of luxury in Doha, as they rule over an impoverished population in the Gaza Strip.

Qatar also has ties to Al-Qaeda, the TalibanISIS, the Muslim Brotherhood, and, reportedly, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

If Doha sponsors the extremists, Al Jazeera amplifies their voices. Notably, the late Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, hosted a popular show on Al Jazeera through which he legitimized suicide bombings against Israelis.

Al Jazeera English pulled an anchor off air in 2013 after she failed to display sufficient sympathy for the Muslim Brotherhood.

As Hamas slaughtered Israeli civilians on October 7, the group’s Doha-based political chief, Ismail Haniyeh, appeared on Al Jazeera to publicly congratulate the terrorists for their “great triumph,” and recruit fighters “to join this battle in any way they can.”

In October, Israel’s communications minister told Israel’s Army Radio that Al Jazeera is “a propaganda mouthpiece” of Hamas. This was hardly the first time such an assessment has been made. But in an increasingly hostile media environment (one that forces Israel to screen footage of Hamas’ massacre to prove it actually happened), more must be done.

Al Jazeera continues to defy US law by failing to register with the Department of Justice (DOJ) as a foreign agent.

DOJ ordered Al Jazeera+, an arm of Al Jazeera based in the United States, to register as an agent of Qatar in 2020. “Despite assertions of editorial independence and freedom of expression,” DOJ’s Chief of Counterintelligence and Export Control noted, “Al Jazeera Media Network and its affiliates are controlled and funded by the Government of Qatar.”

In 2021, a group of senators sent a letter to US Attorney General Merrick Garland claiming Al Jazeera+ had “willfully ignored DOJ’s mandate” and imploring the DOJ “to explain what, if any, steps it has taken to enforce the law.”

Al Jazeera+ has yet to register as a foreign agent. In February, lawmakers pressed Congressional leadership to suspend the Al Jazeera Media Network’s Capitol Hill press credentials “until the State of Qatar and its propaganda arm agree to adhere to the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) and other U.S. laws.”

Al Jazeera’s defiance of the law is even more troubling given its history of clandestine activity in United States. The state-controlled network conducted a months-long spy operation in 2018, recording individuals without their consent, to produce a documentary about pro-Israel organizations in Washington in an attempt to delegitimize them. The series was cancelled under pressure, but was eventually leaked online.

Secretary Blinken told Doha last month that “there can be no more business as usual with Hamas.” If that’s true, then the Biden administration must ensure Al Jazeera fully complies with US law by registering as a foreign agent.

Natalie Ecanow is a research analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a non-partisan research institute in Washington, D.C., focusing on national security and foreign policy. Follow FDD on X @FDD.


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