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Two Wall Street Exchanges Bar Al Jazeera

BY Admin  March 26, 2003 at 12:00 PM EST

The Nasdaq Stock Market on Wednesday denied Al Jazeera’s request to broadcast from its trading floor, just one day after the New York Stock Exchange revoked the network’s press credentials for “security reasons.”

“Al Jazeera made a request to broadcast live reports from the [Nasdaq] market site,” Nasdaq spokesperson Silvia Davi confirmed on Wednesday.

Davi explained the network had never requested press access before Tuesday. She decline to elaborate on the rationale behind Nasdaq’s decision, citing company policy.

But, in an earlier statement by Nasdaq spokesperson Scott Peterson, the markets decision was directly tied to Al Jazeera’s controversial coverage of the war in Iraq.

“In light of Al Jazeera’s recent conduct during the war, in which they have broadcast footage of U.S. POWs in alleged violation of the Geneva Convention, they are not welcome to broadcast from our facility at this time,” Peterson said.

Davi described Peterson’s statement as “incorrect.” Though the exchange was not retracting his remarks, it was not the “official statement,” she explained.

Peterson could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

This move comes just one day after the New York Stock Exchange informed the popular Arabic-language network that it was no longer permitted to broadcast live reports from its trading floor.

Al Jazeera’s two financial reporters, Ammar al-Sankari and Rmazi Shiber, who for years had covered the market action from the NYSE trading floor, were told to turn in their press cards immediately.

NYSE spokesperson Ray Pellechia on Tuesday said the exchange decided to reduce the number of broadcasters working in the building for security reasons. Pellechia added that the exchange would allow access only to media outlets that focus on “responsible business coverage.”

“We’ve had to focus our efforts on networks that focus on responsible business coverage,” Pellechia told Reuters on Tuesday.

When the NYSE decided to limit the number of reporters on the trading floor, the Arabic-language news network was the only broadcaster to lose its spot.

The move is the first time the stock market has revoked press access since it began issuing broadcast credentials in 1994. Al Jazeera had been one of 23 broadcasters to receive such credentials.

The Qatar-based Al Jazeera has appealed for more press freedom, asserting it is being unfairly targeted because of its coverage of the U.S.-led war in Iraq.

“There has to be a national effort to protect the freedom of the press even more,” Al Jazeera spokesman Jihad Ballout said Wednesday. “We appeal to authorities to pay attention to this.”

The Committee to Protect Journalists, a media watchdog based in New York, released a statement saying it was “deeply troubled by this development.”

“The timing of this action raises concerns that it may have been taken in retaliation for Al Jazeera’s coverage of the Gulf war. Any effort by NYSE to prevent journalists from doing their jobs because of their news organization’s editorial policy damages the NYSE’s standing as a forum for the open exchange of news and information,” CPJ director Joel Simon said in a written statement.

Other press organizations were more pointed in their criticism of the move.

“This decision is at best clumsy and at worst a reprisal against the station,” Robert Menard, secretary-general of Reporters Without Borders, a press rights organization based in Paris.

“The reasons given by the NYSE are not very plausible. We warn against the temptation to regard the media as being on one side or other in the war. This can be very dangerous for journalists in the field. Al-Jazeera was only doing its job of informing the public by showing pictures of the U.S. soldiers,” Menard said.

Al Jazeera, a channel partly funded by the Qatari government that claims to serve some 35 million viewers, attracted harsh criticism from members of the Bush administration for broadcasting images of dead U.S. soldiers and prisoners of war in Iraq.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld called the footage “a clear violation of the Geneva Convention,” which protects prisoners of war against public humiliation.

The Defense Department late last week issued a formal statement requesting news organizations “not air or publish recognizable images or audio recording that identify POWs.”