Press Club, Institute release statement on DOJ decision related to Al Jazeera filing under FARA
In response to the Justice Department’s order on Sept. 14 for a U.S.-based affiliate of Al Jazeera to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), National Press Club President Michael Freedman and National Press Club Journalism Institute President Angela Greiling Keane released the following joint statement on Sept. 18:
“We disagree with the U.S Department of Justice decision to require AJ+ to file under FARA. This order effectively says the U.S. government views Al Jazeera to be a propaganda arm of the Qatari government rather than the independent news organizations that journalists all over the world know it to be, particularly though its coverage of the pro-Democracy Arab Spring movement of the past decade.
“Further, the timing of this FARA announcement the day before the United Arab Emirates (UAE) formally signed an agreement normalizing relations with Israel is of note. The UAE has made undercutting Al Jazeera’s journalism one of its priorities since it worked with Saudi Arabia in 2017 to impose a blockade on Qatar, which provides state funding to the news organization.
“We object to this mischaracterization of AJ+ which produces news videos and other content in multiple languages for digital distribution, as a foreign agent. We can only conclude that the Trump administration is buckling to the demands of the UAE, which wants to suppress independent news gathering in the region – reporting that can expose the systemic inequality, corruption and incompetence of many of the region’s rulers.
“While the Qatari government funds Al Jazeera, it does not control the network’s editorial decisions. Other prominent examples exist of international news outlets receiving foreign government funding, yet still being viewed as credible journalism organizations that do not have to file under FARA, These include: the BBC, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and AFP.
“FARA was developed during World War II to block Nazi propaganda from influencing Americans. It requires designated foreign entities to reveal their sources of funding and to file regular public disclosures about their activity. The classification of Al Jazeera under FARA seems wholly political. The Trump administration has close ties to the UAE and Saudi Arabia even as the United States shares long-term strategic interests with Qatar as exemplified by the Air Force’s reliance on the air base at Al Udeid.
“Americans interest is in the growth and proliferation of independent media throughout the Middle East that can serve as a check on corrupt and unresponsive governments. Calling Al Jazeera a propaganda outlet instead of the independent news organization it is sends exactly the wrong message.”