The designation of this platform, AJ +, came on the same day that Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates signed agreements to normalize relations with Israel in the White House – an event attended by Qatari officials who were in Washington for a number of bi-lateral meetings with the United States just the day before.
But efforts have been underway for a long time, as the letter said the DOJ has been in contact with AJ +, a subsidiary based in San Francisco and Washington DC and part of the company backed by Qatar’s royal family, about why it may be subject to these restrictions in 2018. Since then, they have been collecting information, including from Al Jazeera itself.
CNN has reached out to the embassies in the United Arab Emirates and Qatar for comment.
The letter said AJ + has about 80 employees in the United States, whose salaries are “paid by funds derived from the Qatari government”
The letter also noted that the company’s style guide “reveals AJ +’s intention to influence audience attitudes with its reporting” with policies such as calling the Israeli Defense Forces the Israeli Army instead of the IDF and not using the words terror or terrorism. Al Jazeera did not immediately respond to a request for comment from CNN.
Journalism designed to influence American perception of a domestic policy issue or the activities of a foreign nation or its management qualifies as ‘political activities’ under the statutory definition … even if it considers itself ‘balanced’ or aims to balance reporting from other journalists, “said the letter from the head of the Justice Department’s counter-intelligence department, Jay I. Bratt.
The Department of Justice would not confirm the order when CNN requested it.
The Act of Foreign Agents Registration, or FARA, was created decades ago to prevent foreign propaganda from swinging the American public. Companies or individuals considered to be working on behalf of a foreign government in the United States must disclose their funding and relationship with a foreign government or actor with the DOJ, which then publishes the information online.
Registration under FARA does not prohibit a news operation from operating and publishing. In fact, other US-based companies working with foreign media, such as the Japanese television station NHK and the Chinese newspaper The China Daily, are also registered under FARA, and these businesses continue their work.