Al Jazeera Director General Dr. Mostefa Souag denied on Tuesday that the Qatari-funded news organization promotes terrorism as he accepted a journalism award at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.
Mostefa received the 2018 Global Communications Awardon on behalf of Al Jazeera from The World Affairs Council, a non-profit group that champions international issues and global education and honors news channels that embody their goal.
Al Jazeera has criticism for airing terrorist groups’ videos.
Souag said the idea is “misinformation, disinformation,” and a “misunderstanding,” and defended broadcasting the terrorist perspective through their news channel.
“I may agree with you completely that such and such organization is a terrorist organization, but I don’t have the right to deprive you from knowing what this organization is thinking about,” he said in a speech. “You need to know what they are doing, what they are thinking about.”
Souag admitted that the channel is state-funded, but insists they remain “independent and fair” in spite of this and that the government has never reached out to change or propagate a pro-government narrative in their news coverage.
“Al Jazeera is completely far away from any government oppression or interference,” he said.
“Maybe the [U.S.] national security feel that it is very important to know who is actually trying to harm the United States or trying to undermine the United States,” Souag continued. “Of course they have to do that, but Al Jazeera is completely independent. We have no government control whatsoever. Whatsoever.”
Democratic Rep. Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey and Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin of New York wrote a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions in February urging the Department of Justice to compel Al Jazeera to register as a foreign agent under the Foreign Agents Registration Act and to investigate the news organization. (RELATED: Congress Investigates Al Jazeera As Possible Foreign Agent)
“For years, Qatar has used its state-controlled propaganda arm, Al Jazeera, to incite violence, glorify terrorist killers as ‘martyrs,’ and broadcast hateful, extremist content,” Gottheimer said in a statement after the letter was sent, according to a report by Politico.
The Justice Department did not respond to The Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment on whether there is an investigation.
The George W. Bush administration referred to Al Jazeera in 2004 as “hateful propaganda,” claiming it was anti-American and condemning them for broadcasting videos by Osama bin Laden during the Iraq War.
Souag, whose network has long denied being a mouthpiece for Qatar or promoting terrorism, fought back against these charges on Tuesday.
“Whats the problem? Presenting Bin Laden to people is to demystify this guy who is trying to do wrong,” Souag said. “It’s not to glorify him.”
“We always challenge them. We never give them a platform,” he continued in justification of airing footage and interviews with terrorist leaders in the past. “We never allow them or allow anything from their speech that calls for violence or calls for killing or whatever. We don’t. We just want to know, what is the thinking behind what they’re doing. Because that’s important for people to know.”
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