Nasdaq bans Al-Jazeera broadcasts from trading floor


  • Business
  • Saturday, 29 Mar 2003

BY THOMAS S. MULLIGAN

NEW YORK: The Nasdaq stock market on Tuesday followed the lead of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in barring the Al-Jazeera Arab satellite-TV channel from using its facilities to broadcast live market reports.  

But Nasdaq, in contrast to the NYSE, explicitly linked the ban to Qatar-based Al-Jazeera's controversial airing last weekend of images of killed and captured American soldiers in Iraq.  

“In light of Al-Jazeera's recent conduct during the war, in which they have broadcast footage of US POWs in alleged violation of the Geneva Convention, they are not welcome to broadcast from our facility at this time,'' Nasdaq spokesman Scott Peterson said on Tuesday.  

Al-Jazeera applied to Nasdaq on Tuesday, a day after the NYSE had withdrawn credentials from the network and its two part-time commentators, Ramsey Shiber and Ammar al-Sankari, who for a number of years have done “stand-up'' reports on market trends from the NYSE trading floor. Neither man could be reached for comment Tuesday.  

Big Board vice-president Robert Zito cited security and working-space considerations for the revocation, but did not provide specifics. The revocation is the first since the NYSE began granting broadcast credentials in 1994. Al-Jazeera was the only one of 23 NYSE-credentialed broadcasters to lose its privileges.  

Al-Jazeera, in a statement on Tuesday, said it regretted the ban, “just as it regrets any restrictions on freedom of the press. We urge the NYSE to reconsider its decision in the interests of upholding the values of the United States of America.''  

Media observers criticised the bans, saying they conflicted with American free-speech principles and could result in retaliatory restrictions on US journalists abroad.  

“It sounds like they (NYSE) are caught up in a little war fever,'' said Michael Hoyt, executive editor of the Columbia Journalism Review.  

“It's sort of an invitation to further censorship of our reporters,'' added Gerald F. Lawson, chairman of the journalism department at Boston's Emerson College. “We're trying to say it's a war against Iraq, not against Arabs or Muslims. But then we're going to take the television station that serves that whole world and ban them because we don't like something they ran? That's stupid.''  

Zito said on Tuesday that the exchange's security measures have intensified since the war began, which, along with already cramped conditions on the trading floor, have put pressure on the NYSE to limit the number of broadcasters operating there.  

“When you look at the list of broadcasters and reporters who provide responsible business coverage, they're the last ones on the list,'' Zito says.  

Several market professionals who work on the trading floor of the exchange said on Tuesday that the Big Board was justified in yanking Al-Jazeera's credentials, but added that they believe the reasons the exchange gave were specious. They said they thought the revocation was clearly in retaliation for Al-Jazeera's airing of the POW footage.  

One trader who spoke on condition of anonymity said that the revocation came after a member complained vehemently to NYSE officials Monday about Al-Jazeera's presence on the floor.  

Shiber and Al-Sankari, broadcasting in Arabic, provided “commentary and analysis, trying to forecast market trends,'' says Stephanie Thomas, a spokeswoman at Al-Jazeera's US headquarters in Washington. She says the channel reaches 45 million to 55 million viewers in the Middle East, plus an estimated 400,000 in the United States.  

Adding to Al-Jazeera's troubles on Tuesday, hackers attacked the network's collection of Arabic and English-language websites, making them nearly inaccessible throughout the day, officials said.  

Al-Jazeera's websites – which had just launched an English version this week – had posted images of the bodies of US soldiers killed in Iraq. – LAT-WP  

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