WASHINGTON—Al Jazeera, the Qatar-based international news network, should be classified as a global terrorist authority, according to several conservative organizations that announced Tuesday they are trying to have it blocked from U.S. viewers.
Cliff Kincaid, president of America’s Survival Inc., alleged that Al Jazeera is a threat to U.S. security.
“Al Jazeera is not protected by the First Amendment,” Kincaid said. “It provides material support for terrorism, which is illegal under the law.”
Al Jazeera operates a network broadcasting to the Arab world, but entered the U.S. market in 2006, when it created Al Jazeera English as an offering on English-language TV around the world, although with a focus on the Western hemisphere. In the U.S., it is only seen in Toledo, Ohio, the Washington area and Burlington, Vt.
The company recently announced its purchase of Current TV, a network founded by former vice president Al Gore, to create a new channel called Al Jazeera America whose goal is to provide domestic and international news and to compete with networks like CNN, MSNBC and Fox.
TV producer Jerry Kenney has filed a complaint with the Department of Justice claiming Al Jazeera, which was funded by the government of Qatar until a few years ago, and Russia Today, a broadcaster that is funded by the Russian government, violate the Foreign Agents Registration Act because they have not registered and do not properly disclose their foreign affiliations. He criticized the U.S. government at Tuesday’s news conference for not enforcing the law.
“Our president ignores our laws and Congress is AWOL,” Kenney said.
Al Jazeera America responded to the event with a statement claiming approximately 40 percent of Al Jazeera English online views come from American households.
“Based on the reception we have already received from viewers in the U.S., we are absolutely confident in the all-new Al Jazeera America—which will be based in the United States and will primarily cover U.S. news—will be the objective, high-quality reporting Americans want and Al Jazeera provides,” the Al Jazeera statement said.
News provided by Al Jazeera English has been praised in the U.S. Last year Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism awarded the organization the Columbia Journalism Award, a top honor recognizing an individual or organization for “singular journalism in the public interest.”
Pamela Geller, president of the American Freedom Defense Initiative, asserted Al Jazeera’s message is strictly propaganda and compared it to Nazi propaganda during World War II.
“Could you see Nazi America during WWII? What’s the difference?” Geller said.
Geller and the FDI are best known for recent controversial anti-Islam ads in subway stations in New York City, San Francisco and Washington. One advertisement reads, “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad.”
When the Department of Homeland Security advised the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority not to run the ads, Geller sued and won based on First Amendment protections.
Lucy A. Dalglish, dean of the Phillip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland, cited the First Amendment right to speech in her defense of Al Jazeera. Dalglish said different perspectives like those from Al Jazeera could help Americans.
“It might give you a glimpse of why we’re not all that popular in that part of the world,” Dalglish said.
Dalglish added that the American government would’ve caught a problem with Al Jazeera if there was one.
“Something tells me that if they had direct links to terrorism, the Justice Department would’ve figured it out by now,” she said.
Similarly, Matthew Duss, policy analyst and director of Middle East progress at the Center for American Progress, called Geller’s criticism of Al Jazeera “paranoid rambling.”
“To treat it as simply the information wing of the radical jihadist war on the West…is ridiculous,” Duss said.