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Foreign state media must comply with US law: Al Jazeera has not registered as a foreign agent

The United States has a cherished history of protecting and promoting press freedom. It’s a right enshrined in the Bill of Rights that has long been a beacon for our republic, serving as a model widely emulated abroad. While continuing to uphold this traditional founding tenet of our nation, the United States government has a duty to ensure that our laws are never violated by foreign actors in any way that undermines our best intentions to provide the transparency and accountability our Founding Fathers sought. forever. promote.

Five years ago, in March 2018, I signed a letter with a bipartisan group of 17 other House members to the Department of Justice requesting an investigation of the Al Jazeera news network to determine whether they were operating in accordance with US law. The request cited Al Jazeera’s long history of anti-American, anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli broadcasts, as well as its alleged infiltration of non-profit organizations in the US. Every year since then, similar bipartisan investigations have been filed with the Justice Department. . The DOJ has never responded in any meaningful way to any of these letters.

Now, thanks to the watchdog group Empower Oversight, we know that the Justice Department did monitor Al Jazeera, albeit without alerting Congress. On September 14, 2020, the DOJ sent a letter to Al Jazeera informing them of their obligation to register as a foreign agent under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), after concluding that the outlet was conducting political activities on behalf of from Qatar. government intent on influencing our policies in the US However, despite the Justice Department’s findings, Al Jazeera has flouted US law, refusing to register under FARA.

Al Jazeera has long been known to be owned, financed and controlled by the Qatari government. For years, the network has carried out propaganda on behalf of Islamic terrorist groups like Hamas and provided a platform for virulent anti-Semitism. At the same time, the network’s subsidiary, AJ+, has garnered a massive social media following among young Americans by speaking out against racism, sexism, abuse of immigrants, and the denial of LGBTQ rights in the US. USA.

AJ+ is being used to undermine support for the traditional values ​​of the United States and our key allies, including Israel. Meanwhile, Al Jazeera has more of its journalists credentialed in congressional press galleries than almost any other media outlet. While the New York Times has 82 accredited journalists in the Chamber’s press gallery, Al Jazeera has 136.

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This is not, of course, the only example of state-sponsored foreign media evading US law. Several nations with well-documented histories of spying on Americans, such as Russia and China, own and control state-sponsored news outlets whose journalists have been accredited by the House and Senate media galleries. The fact is that foreign state-sponsored media outlets have no limit on the number of journalists who can receive credentials on the floor of Congress, which are, in effect, “all-access passes” on Capitol Hill.

The recently launched spy balloon over the continental United States was just one of many examples of spying and surveillance by the Chinese government against Americans. However, more than two dozen credentials were issued in the 118th Congress to media outlets registered under FARA as Chinese agents. Another 16 credentials were issued to media outlets owned or controlled by senior Chinese Communist Party officials.

Over the past decade, foreign nations have aggressively deployed their spy forces against United States government agencies and government officials, as well as thousands of American and American companies perceived as opponents or dissidents of their regimes.

Even if the outlet is owned or controlled by a state known to have conducted spying operations targeting US government officials or other Americans, these state-sponsored news outlets are not subject to verification. background check before acquiring credentials. It is time to demand greater scrutiny of these “media” operations.

Fortunately, Rep. Jack Bergman just introduced legislation to that end, H.Res. 189. In addition to requiring compliance with FARA, the Bergman legislation also:

  • Establishes a limit of ten press credentials in total for any media outlet sponsored by a qualifying foreign state and its affiliates, and;
  • Requires FBI background checks for all persons applying for House press gallery credentials through a qualifying foreign state-sponsored media outlet.

It’s hard to see how any member of Congress could oppose legislation that simply requires foreign state-sponsored media to comply with our laws. It is urgent that Congress approve H.Res. 189 and President Biden sign it into law.

Zeldin, the Republican nominee for governor of New York last year, represented eastern Suffolk County in Congress from 2015 to 2023.

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