Reporters Without Borders today denounced the banning of reporters of the pan-Arab station Al-Jazeera from the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and warned against revenge-taking against the media because of the war in Iraq.
Cancellation of the accreditation of Al-Jazeera’s two reporters was announced on 25 March by the station, which said it was because of its coverage of the war. But NYSE spokesman Ray Pellechia told journalists that for "security reasons," it had been decided to restrict media accreditations.
However, Reporters Without Borders learns that Al-Jazeera, which has aired pictures of captured US solders, was the only one of the 26 media covering the NYSE to be excluded.
"This decision is at best clumsy and at worst a reprisal against the station," said the press freedom organisation’s secretary-general Robert Ménard. "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 US soldiers."
Spokesman Pellechia said the NYSE had recently refused to accredit other media or allow some to increase their staff, but gave no names. Reporters Without Borders learns that two media were refused, but they had not previously been registered. Al-Jazeera has been accredited to the NYSE for the past five years.
The two barred Al-Jazeera reporters, Ammar al-Sankari and Ramzi Shiber, came after the station showed what US military commanders called "disgusting" pictures of US soldiers captured by the Iraqis. US defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld said on 23 March that it would be "unfortunate" if US TV stations showed such film. In October 2001, the US government strongly criticised Al-Jazeera for broadcasting the remarks of Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden.