U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Al Jazeera’s AJ+ ordered to register as foreign agent

Incident Details

September 14, 2020

The U.S. Department of Justice ordered Al Jazeera’s U.S.-based social media division, AJ+, to register as a foreign agent under the Foreign Agents Registration Act on Sept. 14, 2020.

In a letter obtained by Mother Jones, Jay Bratt, chief of the DOJ’s counterintelligence and export control section, wrote that AJ+ acts “at the direction and control” of the leaders of Qatar.

“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,” Bratt wrote.

Al Jazeera condemned the order, referencing “relentless lobbying efforts” by the government of the United Arab Emirates to shutter the outlet. Since 2108, Republican members of Congress have sent three letters requesting that the DOJ compel Al Jazeera’s registration, Mother Jones reported.

Entities registered under FARA must include disclaimers about their government connections in their reporting and provide details about operations and funding to the Justice Department.

The Trump administration has ordered bureaus of multiple other foreign outlets to register under FARA or the Foreign Missions Act, in some cases leading to retaliation against journalists in those countries.

A spokesperson for Al Jazeera said in a statement to Mother Jones that the act effectively “hobbles” the outlet.

“We are deeply disappointed by the Department’s decision, which runs counter to the extensive factual record we provided demonstrating that FARA registration is not applicable to AJ+,” the statement reads. “The legal structure, editorial structure, editorial policies, budgeting process and content of AJ+ clearly demonstrate its independence.”

The statement added that the outlet is reviewing the determination and considering its options moving forward.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker catalogues press freedom violations in the United States. Email tips to [email protected].