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NYSE bans Arab station's reporters

Exchange denies that coverage of war is to blame

NEW YORK — The Arab TV network Al-Jazeera said Monday two of its reporters covering the New York Stock Exchange have had their credentials revoked because of the satellite station's coverage of the war in Iraq.

Exchange spokesman Ray Pellechia denied the station's war coverage was the cause. Citing "security reasons," he said the exchange had chosen to limit the number of broadcasters working at the lower Manhattan exchange since the war began, giving access only to networks that focus "on responsible business coverage."

Al-Jazeera said it got a letter from the exchange saying the number of accredited TV stations needed to be reduced. It said reporters Ammar al-Sankari and Ramzi Shiber had their credentials withdrawn.

The network said the reason was "Al-Jazeera's coverage of the war on Iraq."

It said it has covered the exchange for years and believes it is the only channel affected by the new curbs. Pellechia said other broadcasters had been refused accreditation or permission to increase their staff, but he declined to give examples.

"On the surface it smells bad. Unless the stock exchange can give a more substantive, legitimate justification it certainly appears to be a case of punishing Al-Jazeera for its coverage of the war in Iraq," said Bob Steele, senior faculty and ethics group leader at the Poynter Institute, a journalism think tank.

"Among other things, it would raise questions about how other foreign news agencies would be handled here in the United States if their coverage was out of favor with a particular accrediting organization.

"American journalists might find their credentials or journalistic access limited or denied in other countries in response to the Al-Jazeera situation with the NYSE," he said.

U.S. military officials on Sunday criticized Al-Jazeera for carrying Iraqi TV footage of U.S. prisoners of war.

Al-Jazeera is based in the Persian Gulf state of Qatar, which also hosts the U.S. military's Central Command for the region. The station has gained a reputation as an unusually independent voice in a region where many news media are government-controlled.

Ghazi Khankan of the Council on American-Islamic Relations decried the move, saying Al-Jazeera "is really one of the very few independent Arab media, and to cut them off is a loss to the stock exchange."

He said he understood the sensitivity of the footage of U.S. captives, "but I don't think this is the right thing to do in spite of the sad pictures."