US Military Spending Bill Could Target al-Jazeera as ‘Foreign Agent’

Language suggests broad push against foreign-owned media

Foreign-owned media outlets that don’t always tow the line in the US could find themselves under dramatically increased scrutiny under the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), with analysts predicting that al-Jazeera will be the first news media outlet to fall victim.

The NDAA provisions were designed by groups openly hostile to al-Jazeera, and are aimed at forcing the news outlet, and others, to register as “foreign agents” because of their ties to overseas governments, and especially because of their content.

Al-Jazeera is already facing hostility across the Middle East, because they’re based in Qatar, and Saudi Arabia really doesn’t like Qatar. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and others called on the Justice Department to investigate al-Jazeera in particular for being “anti-semitic and anti-Israel,” saying they believe that makes it a ‘state-controlled propaganda arm.”

The media outlets being targeted by this will have to file reports every six months with the US government defending their status as media outlets, meaning that this measure is a permanent burden on foreign media outlets that the US government has a problem with.

This of course mirrors the US government’s move against Russia’s RT, which they forced to register as a foreign agent. RT is tangentially owned by the Russian Federation, but is managed indirectly, in a virtually identical process to the US government’s handling of Radio Free Europe and the Voice of America.

Onerous reporting requirements are to be centered on media outlets that officials have a problem with, but there is no suggestion that foreign-owned outlets like the BBC will even be considered. The common denominator is not foreign government control, but rather the content.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.