Al Jazeera violates US law by not disclosing ties with Qatari royalty

The main point of contention in the report is that Al Jazeera has refused to disclose its relationship with the Qatari royal family - which is against US law.

The Al-Jazeera Media Network logo is seen on its headquarters building in Doha, Qatar. (photo credit: REUTERS)
The Al-Jazeera Media Network logo is seen on its headquarters building in Doha, Qatar.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Al Jazeera, a Qatari state-owned news agency that supplies Middle East news in English to millions of readers, has been accused of violating US transparency laws in a report issued by a former member of the US congress and endorsed by the United Arab Emirates.
The main point of contention in the report is that Al Jazeera has refused to disclose its relationship with the Qatari royal family – which is against US law.
The report, issued on July 6 by former representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, claims that both the state-owned agency and the country of Qatar are violating the United State's Department of Justice's Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), which requires certain foreign agents, such as Russia’s RT, China’s CGTN and Turkey’s TRT media outlets, to periodically disclose their relationship with  the foreign principal.
Within this assertation, Ros-Lehtinen who chaired the House Foreign Affairs Committee from 2011-2013, accused Al Jazeera of operating as an undisclosed agent of the Qatari government.
According to the report, which was endorsed by the UAE, Al Jazeera violated those laws by not disclosing ties with the Qatari Royal family, which it has used for years to further the government's political interests in the US. Despite the fact that it is funded by the Qatari government, the news agency maintains that it has editorial independence and is therefore not subject to FARA disclosure, according to the Washington Free Beacon which reported on the issue.
"These erroneous claims and tired, false narratives are a continuation of the aggressive lobbying, public relations and online disinformation campaigns orchestrated by the United Arab Emirates," Al Jazeera said in a statement, according to Free Beacon. "Unsuccessful in these attempts, the UAE is now attempting to accomplish the objectives of the blockade through other means, including weaponizing US laws improperly."
In 2017, the United Arab Emirates – which, along with Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Bahrain imposed blockade to isolate Qatar – issued sanctions unless Doha accepted demands to close Al Jazeera television, curb ties with Iran, shut a Turkish base and pay reparations. The four blockading countries sent a 13-point list of demands, apparently aimed at dismantling their tiny but wealthy neighbor’s two-decade-old interventionist foreign policy, which has incensed them.
The Arab states said Qatar's alleged support for terrorism was the main reason behind the blockade, also accusing the tiny nation of violating a 2014 Gulf Cooperation Council agreement and criticizing their ties with Iran.
Al Jazeera also came under congressional fire in 2018 when it admitted to planting an “undercover reporter” inside pro-Israel lobbyist organizations in Washington last year to create a documentary based on his findings.
The report states that Al Jazeera cannot maintain independence from the government, while the government, "owns, funds and controls" the media agency.
"The United States needs to take a hard look at its relationship with Qatar and to compel Al Jazeera – the media network that is owned, funded, directed and controlled by the Qatari government – to register with the Department of Justice under the Foreign Agents Registration Act," Ros-Lehtinen wrote in the report.
Additionally, Ros-Lehtinen expressed concern about Qatar's relationship with Iran as well as terror groups such as Hamas, and the connection that notion has with Al Jazeera's reporting.
"Qatar’s relationship with Iran raises serious questions regarding their vision for the region. Moreover, Qatar uses its state-owned, state-funded, state-directed and state-controlled Al Jazeera Media Network to  project this vision to the US public," Ros-Lehtinen said in the report.
"I have long had concerns about these issues with Qatar. In 2014, I told my former congressional colleagues in a hearing, 'Qatar is a major benefactor of Hamas,' that it 'has been supporting terrorists and radicals all across the globe and offers them sanctuary.'"
Ros-Lehtinen also made a point to question why an Arab nation of just a few hundred thousand people, whose native language is not English, "spends millions of dollars on this type of operation in the United States if not as part of a 'soft power' element of its foreign policy."
"Even if, as Qatar now contends, Al Jazeera is a 'private foundation for public benefit,' it is difficult to see what other benefit the Qatari people might get from their government spending millions of dollars on a US-based operation creating US-targeted materials for US social media platform users," she noted.
"I cannot sit by while the Qatari regime’s role is cloaked by a media conglomerate wholly owned by a foreign government," Ros-Lehtinen said. "The US public reads, hears and sees Al Jazeera stories and content every day, and Americans deserve to know that this organization serves as an agent for – and is owned, funded, directed and controlled by – the government of Qatar."
Jerusalem Post Staff contributed to this report.