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NYSE Revokes al-Jazeera's Press Credentials - 2003-03-26

The New York Stock Exchange has revoked the credentials of the Arabic satellite news channel, al-Jazeera. Some journalist watchdog groups worry about the repercussions of the war on press freedom.

New York Stock Exchange spokesman Bob Zito says that the decision to exclude al-Jazeera from daily coverage from the stock exchange floor has nothing to do with the station's war coverage.

Instead, he says he was trying to make room for other networks that broadcast directly to investors and are expanding coverage of the stock market's reaction to the war.

Mr. Zito says he can understand why critics remain skeptical of the Exchange's motives, since al-Jazeera has been criticized for taking an anti-American stance and violating the Geneva Conventions by broadcasting Iraqi footage of American prisoners of war.

"Well, I think certainly the timing of us talking to al-Jazeera yesterday morning could [lead] some [to] presume that this was something based on coverage, on their coverage of the war," he said."But that is not the case."

In a statement, al-Jazeera, which is based in Qatar and is popular throughout much of the Arab world, defended its decision to air the footage of the POWs and said it regrets the move by the New York Stock Exchange "just as it regrets any restrictions on the freedom of the press."

Al-Jazeera, which also files daily reports from the Pentagon, the State Department and the White House, was one of about 25 news organizations at the New York stock market, but was the only one that lost its credentials.

The New York-based watchdog group, Committee to Protect Journalists, is investigating the case. Spokesman Joe Campagna says he is troubled by the Stock Exchange decision and recent expulsions of journalists.

Last month, the United States ordered an Iraqi reporter covering the United Nations in New York to leave the country, accusing him of sabotage. Iraq then expelled a Fox news crew.

Since the war began last week, several American reporters, including the crew from CNN have been expelled from Baghdad by the Iraqi government.

Mr. Campagna says that access and safety are of vital concern in covering conflict.

"I think it has been a very difficult week. We have seen two reporters killed. We have had acts of expulsion," he said. "We have had, now following the al-Jazeera case, although we are not fully certain, we have potential reprisals against reporters covering the conflict. So I think there is a lot of different areas where press freedoms are coming into play."

Mr. Campagna says he worries that reporters are becoming pawns in the conflict.