Restoring confidence in public statements by independently testing and verifying the facts
Does Al Jazeera support Islamic extremist groups?
By James Lane
"Al Jazeera are a state-owned propaganda arm of the Qatari government that supports Islamic extremist groups and are not a legitimate media organisation."
One Nation statement. March 26, 2019.
Pauline Hanson's One Nation has referred to police an Al Jazeera investigation, aired on ABC TV, into the party’s attempt to secure political funding from America’s powerful National Rifle Association.
Al Jazeera filmed Ms Hanson's chief of staff James Ashby and the party's Queensland director Steve Dickson discussing the softening of Australia's gun laws during a trip to the US last year.
AAP FactCheck examined One Nation’s claim Al Jazeera “supports Islamic extremist groups". 
One Nation did not respond to AAP FactCheck requests to provide a source for its claim.
Al Jazeera’s manager of investigative journalism said One Nation’s criticisms were unfounded. "Al Jazeera is financed by the Qatari government but operates wholly independently. No one from the government of Qatar has had any role in this production,” Phil Rees told leading US political website The Hill.
"The idea for the investigation came from Peter Charley, the reporter and producer, a 30-year veteran with Australian TV. Blaming the messenger rather than addressing the message is always an act of last resort by politicians.” 
Al Jazeera began broadcasting in 1996 when a group of former BBC reporters received backing from Qatar's monarch to start a TV network independent of Western channels. The broadcaster states on its website that it “is an independent news organisation funded in part by the Qatari government”. 
Luciano Zaccara, assistant professor at Qatar University's Gulf Studies Centre says Al Jazeera has helped promote Qatar's influence in the region. "It put Qatar on the map," he told GlobalPost in 2015. "Al Jazeera was the most important tool (Qatari leaders) had to influence public opinion." 
Al Jazeera has long been a source of tension between Qatar and its Arab neighbours, accused of being a mouthpiece for terrorists.
In 2006 the network aired an audio tape from Osama bin Laden and an address from bin Laden’s top deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri. The statements were picked up by every major news agency and were vetted for authenticity by the CIA. US President George Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld later accused Al Jazeera of fuelling anti-American sentiment and giving terrorists a podium.
In its defence Al-Jazeera said it assesses such tapes purely on the basis of news value. Editor-in-chief Ahmed al-Sheikh said Al-Jazeera’s editors wrangle over what portions, if any, they can air. 
In 2011 Al Jazeera became the primary source of information for its coverage of the Arab spring, a series of pro-democracy uprisings that enveloped several largely Muslim countries, including Tunisia, Morocco, Syria, Libya, Egypt and Bahrain. Two years later Egyptian secret police arrested the network’s Australian journalist Peter Greste and an Egyptian reporter on suspicion of illegally broadcasting news harming "domestic security". Egypt's military-installed government cracked down on Al-Jazeera following the 2013 overthrow of president Mohamed Morsi, accusing the broadcaster of bias in favour of Islamist group, the Muslim Brotherhood. 
In 2017 when Saudi Arabia cut ties with Qatar it accused Al Jazeera and Qatar of supporting militants and broadcasting their ideology. "(Qatar) embraces multiple terrorist and sectarian groups aimed at disturbing stability in the region, including the Muslim Brotherhood, ISIS (Islamic State) and al-Qaeda, and promotes the message and schemes of these groups through their media constantly," the Saudi state news agency SPA said. 
In the same year after Saudi attempts to shut the network, Al Jazeera addressed accusations of supporting extremism in an open letter, claiming it challenged “all sides of the story”.
“We defend the freedom of expression and believe in people's right to knowledge. We take no sides. We are no one’s messenger or spokesperson and we never have been,” it said. 
In a 2017 article University of Southern California academic and author Philip Seib wrote there was “truth to the allegations that Al Jazeera Arabic’s reporting has a pro-Islamist slant”.
"Qatar’s adversaries say this reporting takes the form of sympathetic coverage of not only the Muslim Brotherhood but also Al-Qaeda linked groups in Syria and Yemen." 
In 2017 author Hugh Marks wrote in The Observer that while Al Jazeera had raised political awareness across the Middle East, western audiences needed to consider the network had two faces - one Arabic and one English - and it was “the Arabic face that creates all the problems in Qatar’s neighbourhood”.
Marks noted Arab regimes persecuting Qatar “are all vulnerable to being overthrown by popular revolution and replaced by Islamist groups, so seeing these same groups presented as legitimate political opposition on Al Jazeera and being allowed to agitate for political change represents a clear existential threat”. 
AAP FactCheck found there is no direct evidence to support One Nation’s claim, however it’s important to note that Al Jazeera is a broadcaster with channels in English and Arabic. There is some evidence of a pro-Islamist editorial stance by Al Jazeera Arabic and its Qatari owners.
- Somewhat False - Mostly false, but there is more than one element of truth.
1: ‘ABC defends Al Jazeera Investigation’. Nine.com.au/AAP. March 26, 2019: https://www.9news.com.au/national/abc-defends-al-jazeera-investigation/2104b113-9232-4252-80ac-b1f45a889925
2: ‘Australian leader accuses politicians of soliciting NRA, Koch donations to undermine gun laws’. By Chris Mills Rodrigo. The Hill. March 26, 2019: https://thehill.com/policy/international/435817-australian-leader-accuses-politicians-of-soliciting-donations-from-nra
3: ‘Inside Al Jazeera: Is the pan-Arab channel a propaganda outfit or an essential voice?’ By Reese Erlich. Public Radio International (PRI). June 10, 2015: https://www.pri.org/stories/2015-06-10/inside-al-jazeera-pan-arab-channel-propaganda-outfit-or-essential-voice
4: ‘Who we are. A truly global network’. Al Jazeera: https://www.aljazeera.com/aboutus/
5: ‘Al-Qaida tapes often come through Al-Jazeera’. NBC News/AP. January 20, 2006: http://www.nbcnews.com/id/10948626/ns/world_news-terrorism/t/al-qaida-tapes-often-come-through-al-jazeera/#.XJwRsFUzbRY
6: ‘Aussie journo held in Egypt’. SBS/AAP. December 31, 2013: https://www.sbs.com.au/news/aussie-journo-held-in-egypt
7: ‘Al Jazeera Accused of Supporting Terrorism: Qatar News Agency's Bitter History With the Arab World’. Haaretz and Reuters. June 5, 2017: https://www.haaretz.com/middle-east-news/qatar-crisis-al-jazeera-has-a-long-and-bitter-history-the-arab-world-1.5480437
8: ‘An Open Letter from Al Jazeera’. Al Jazeera. June 27, 2015: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/06/open-letter-al-jazeera-170626125049180.html
9: ‘Why some Arab countries want to shutter Al Jazeera’. By Philip Seib. The Conversation. July 10, 2017: https://theconversation.com/why-some-arab-countries-want-to-shutter-al-jazeera-80600
10: ‘Al-Jazeera, insurgent TV station that divides the Arab world, faces closure’. By Hugh Miles, The Observer. July 2, 2017: https://www.theguardian.com/media/2017/jul/01/demand-al-jazeera-closure-shows-how-much-enemies-fear-it
- First published March 29, 2019 13:51 AEDT