US order to register AJ+ as foreign agent condemned by Al Jazeera

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Qatar-based media network, Al Jazeera has condemned the recent order by the US Department of Justice (DOJ) to designate AJ+ as a foreign agent, saying it appears the designation was a precondition of the UAE to normalise diplomatic ties with Israel.

According to Al Jazeera, in a letter dated Monday, the DOJ said AJ+ should be subject to the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), claiming the outlet engages in “political activities” on behalf of the Qatar government.

AJ+, which has offices in Doha and Washington, DC, is part of the Al Jazeera Media Network. It produces videos for social media in English, Arabic, French and Spanish.

As per the reports, the FARA determination would only apply to AJ+ English based in the US.

In making its case against Al Jazeera, Jay I Bratt, the DOJ’s counterintelligence chief, said in the letter that the Qatari government provides Al Jazeera’s funding and appoints its board of directors.

“Journalism designed to influence American perceptions of a domestic policy issue or a foreign nation’s activities or its leadership qualifies as ‘political activities’ under the statutory definition,” Bratt wrote.

The FARA designation of AJ+ follows relentless lobbying efforts by the government of the UAE, which has long tried to pressure Qatar into shutting down the Al Jazeera Media Network, AJ report said.

In 2017, the UAE, along with Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt, imposed a blockade on Qatar, accusing Doha of supporting extremism and fostering ties with Iran, allegations Qatar has strongly denied.

Al Jazeera’s report further said, “At the start of the Gulf crisis, the blockading quartet issued an extensive list of demands Qatar would need to comply with in order to have the blockade lifted, including the shuttering of Al Jazeera.”

In a statement to the New York Times, Al Jazeera said: “The UAE has confirmed it presented the United States with preconditions prior to announcing the Abraham Accords, and we received DOJ’s letter the day before the UAE signed the Accords,” referring to the normalisation agreement signed at the White House on Tuesday.

“Hobbling Al Jazeera was one of the top conditions of the UAE’s blockade against Qatar and the Justice Department just gave the UAE what it wanted,” the statement said.

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