“Governments should not be in the business of deciding what constitutes legitimate journalism, regardless of the influence that may be brought to bear on Al Jazeera’s editorial policies due to its connection to the Qatari government,” said Margaux Ewen, RSF’s North America Director. “Al Jazeera’s award-winning journalism contributes to media pluralism on a global scale, and reducing it to a Qatari government agency is irresponsible.”
Congress’ letter is in response to a decision the Justice Department made in August that RT America, a Kremlin-funded media organization based in Washington DC, register as a foreign agent under FARA. The law is used to keep track of foreign influence on politicians in the United States. Following RT’s designation, Russia’s justice ministry declared that US-owned news outlets including Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Free Liberty and seven affiliated media organizations, were considered “foreign agents” in Russia. At the time, RSF expressed concerns then that the move would only further restrict access to information in Russia at a time when unprecedented pressure is being placed on Russian media.
The United States ranks 43rd out of 180 countries in RSF's 2017 World Press Freedom Index after falling 2 places in the last year.