The Australian Government sent a letter to Al Jazeera warning that it should be careful not to breach foreign interference laws in its reporting.
Managing director Giles Trendle received the letter in June. It concerned a documentary, How to Sell a Massacre, in which an Al Jazeera journalist named Rodger Muller went undercover to infiltrate the National Rifle Association.
The letter was obtained by BuzzFeed through a freedom of information request.
In the letter, assistant secretary of the Institutional Integrity Branch Lucinda Atkinson states that though Al Jazeera didn't need to register in this instance, the department wanted to draw attention to the scenarios in which it would. Al Jazeera is partly funded by the Qatari government.
Atkinson also suggests that Muller, through his undercover actions as a guns-rights activist, may have committed a crime by failing to register.
A similar letter was sent to Nine for broadcasting further footage collected during the documentary's production. Both Al Jazeera and producer Peter Charley said that they did not consent to it being broadcast.
The Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme requires agents engaging in political activities on behalf of foreign entities to register with the government.
26-28 March 2019
- ABC airs How to Sell a Massacre over two nights
- Attorney General's Office writes a letter to Giles Trendle
ABC News. 2019. How to sell a massacre. 31 March 2019.
Ryan H. 2019. The Australian Government cautioned Al Jazeera after its massive NRA gun investigation. BuzzFeed Australia. 6 September 2019.