A Republican lawmaker has formally petitioned the Congressional Press Office to revoke Al Jazeera's press credentials pending an investigation into the outlet's ownership, according to a letter obtained by the Free Beacon.
Rep. Jack Bergman (R., Mich.), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, petitioned the Capitol Hill press officers earlier this month to immediately suspend "press credentials for the Al Jazeera news network" in light of "recent reports that the sole owner and shareholder of Al Jazeera International is the Emir of the State of Qatar," according to the letter.
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Al Jazeera's press credentials should be revoked until Congress and the Department of Justice completes an investigation into possible violations of U.S. law by the network, the letter discloses.
Bergman and other lawmakers have argued that the outlet operates at the will of Qatar's ruling body and should be subject to laws compelling disclosure of these ties with the Department of Justice. Other foreign-owned media outlets such as Russia's RT had their press credentials revoked in 2017 over similar concerns regarding the dissemination of state-approved propaganda in the U.S.
Congress went even further in recent months to compel foreign government's to disclose their media ties when they passed a measure requiring outlets like RT and Al Jazeera to register with the Federal Communications Commission, which Al Jazeera has thus far declined to do.
Bergman told the Free Beacon more must be done to ensure that primarily foreign-owned media outlets are not permitted to disseminate state-sanctioned propaganda in the United States.
"In late 2017, the Congressional Press Office revoked the credentials to Russia’s state-owned broadcast and internet network, Russia Today," Bergman said. "The network had been forced to acknowledge its relationship with its foreign principal and, rightly, registered under FARA. In a letter to RT, the Press Office made clear that its credentialing rules ‘state clearly that news credentials may not be issued to any applicant employed by ‘any foreign government or representative thereof.'"
"When it came to RT, the Press Office made the right call," Bergman said. "It was misusing our free press in order to broadcast a foreign state's propaganda into this country. Al Jazeera may have more expensive lawyers, and teams of lobbyists, but it is no different. Clever accounting and legal tricks don't hide the fact that Al Jazeera is an appendage of Qatar."
While Al Jazeera does receive a large portion of its funding from the Qatari government, it has maintained that it has editorial independence and, therefore, is not subject to FARA or FCC disclosure rules.
This debate spilled into public view earlier this month after Bergman penned an op-ed criticizing Al Jazeera for failing to register with the Department of Justice and FCC.
Al Jazeera's Washington, D.C. representatives contacted the lawmaker to demand a correction to his article, which Bergman's office declined to make. The exchange was first reported by the Free Beacon.
Bergman, in his letter to the Capitol Hill press office, maintained that Al Jazeera operates as Qatar’s official press arm.
"Under the FARA statute, and in keeping with the National Defense Authorization Act, Al Jazeera was recently required by the Federal Communications Commission to file a report disclosing its relationship to its foreign principal," the letter states. "My Congressional colleagues and I will be requesting a review from the Justice Department to determine whether the network is in violation of U.S. law in this regard. Pending the determination of that review, I believe that suspension of Al Jazeera’s press credentials is not only in order, but imperative."
Al Jazeera, in a statement on the letter, insisted on its independence.
"Al Jazeera Media Network, its channels and its platforms operate with editorial independence while receiving public funding and, in this respect, are similar to most global media organizations, including the BBC, CBC, and Deutsche Welle," the outlet said. "AJMN is a Private Foundation for Public Benefit under Qatari law; it is not owned by Qatar, and its reporting is not directed or controlled by the Qatari government nor does it reflect any government viewpoint. Therefore, FARA registration is not required."
In October of last year, the National Press Club sided with Al Jazeera and called on lawmakers to nix their requests for the outlet to register as a foreign agent.