Al Jazeera winds down Rightly, its conservative US media project – report

Al Jazeera, the Qatar-funded media organization, has reportedly stopped creating content for its new conservative digital project in the US, Rightly.

Four sources confirmed the news to Axios, which was the first to report it on Tuesday. In December, the company ended its show on the platform, which was being overseen by its editor-in-chief, Scott Norvell, a Fox News veteran.

Al Jazeera launched Rightly last year to “provide fresh voices that are too often left out of the mainstream media a space to engage and debate the issues that matter most to them”, according to a statement released at the time.

The surprise decision to launch such a project was met with objections from numerous Al Jazeera staff members, with many saying that its launch would “irreparably tarnish the network’s brand and work”.

In an open letter to Al Jazeera management, staff members, including executive producers, presenters and correspondents wrote: “Media in the US is already polarised and the introduction of Rightly is not a solution but rather a deepening of the problem.

“Those of us who work in the United States already face tremendous challenges, and our jobs will only be made more difficult now that we will be associated with promoting a political ideology,” the letter added.

“This isn’t about politics, left or right, or diversity of perspectives … This is about journalism and continuing the network’s moral mission of uplifting marginalized voices, communities and stories. Rightly is a betrayal of that mission.”

Last fall, the Department of Justice ordered AJ+, a US-based digital news network owned by Al Jazeera, to register as a foreign agent. In a letter sent to Al Jazeera, the DOJ said that the network, which produces short videos for social media, engaged in “political activities” on behalf of the Qatari government and thus needed to be subject to the Foreign Agents Registration Act. Al Jazeera said AJ+ was independent and should not need to register.

Axios reported that Rightly staff members who worked on the show were given little warning that it would wind down. One staff member who worked on the show said it was explained as “a budgetary decision”.

Brad Polumbo, a policy correspondent at the Foundation for Economic Education, who worked on Rightly, confirmed to Axios that it had closed. “I had a great experience there,” he said, adding: “It’s disappointing that it was cut short but we’ll still have that work we did as part of our portfolio and to be proud of going forward.”

Michael Weaver, Al Jazeera’s senior vice-president of business and development and growth, said that the company was still evaluating the Rightly brand. “We’re constantly evaluating everything we put on the air,” he said, without specifying what products might be produced in the future from the brand.

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