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Qatar-Funded Al Jazeera Fights Facebook Over ‘State-Controlled’ Label

Facebook announced a new policy to label state-funded media on its platform. Qatar-backed outlet Al Jazeera has a problem with that.

In a letter sent by the media outlet’s lawyers to Facebook’s Vice President Jennifer Gillian Newstead and Head of Global Policy Management Monika Bickert, Al Jazeera wrote that Facebook’s policy would cause “substantial and irreparable harm” to its reputation. While the company admitted that it received public funding from Qatar, it argued that this was no different than the BBC and CBC, which are also state-funded media outlets.

Al Jazeera’s managing director Giles Trendle told BuzzFeed News, “This is a dangerous step to delegitimize credible journalism.” The company claims that it maintains editorial independence from Qatar, even though it is located in the capital of Qatar, Doha.

Qatar, according to UNICEF, bases its legislation on Shari’a law. The country has funded terrorist groups like Hamas, which is labeled a terrorist group by the State Department. In 2014, the Qatari emir pledged $400 million to Hamas.

Facebook told CNN that it is drawing a distinction between publicly-funded media, like the BBC, and state-controlled media, like China’s Xinhua. A blog on Facebook Newsroom stated, “we’ll begin labeling media outlets that are wholly or partially under the editorial control of their government as state-controlled media. This label will be on both their Page and in our Ad Library.”

Al Jazeera’s Global Executive Director Yaser Bishr tweeted, “Not a secret anymore. We at Al Jazeera are pushing against Facebook.”

However, Al Jazeera seems to want Facebook to avoid the labels if that works in the outlet’s favor. Vice reported Nov. 11, that Al Jazeera called for the suspension of Facebook and Instagram pages from the Emirates that claim the outlet publishes material that incites violence.