LONDON: The US Justice Department has ordered Al Jazeera’s affiliate youth channel AJ+ to register as a foreign agent for engaging in “political activities” on behalf of the Qatari government, according to reports.
The move comes a few months after US Congress members demanded that Al Jazeera itself be registered and subject to the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).
AJ+, a youth network only found on social media channels, produces short videos in English Arabic, French and Spanish.
The Justice Department stated in a letter dated Monday that Qatar provides the channel with 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, even if it views itself as ‘balanced’,” stated the letter, which was signed by Jay I. Bratt, head of the department’s counterintelligence division, and first obtained by American magazine Mother Jones.
Al Jazeera has been called a useful tool for Qatar’s ruling elite, which sympathizes with the Muslim Brotherhood and other terrorist and extremist groups.
In 2017, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain severed diplomatic ties with Qatar in order to pressure it to halt its alleged terrorism financing and shut down the network.
FARA calls on certain agents of foreign entities operating in the US and engaged in political or other activities to disclose their relationship with foreign nations.
AJ+ has consistently found itself mired in controversy. Its Arabic channel was slammed following the release of a video about the Holocaust, and for tweeting an anti-Semitic meme.
The video suggested that Jews had skewed facts about the Holocaust, and that Israel was the “biggest winner” from it.