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SPJ urges New York Stock Exchange to reconsider Al-Jazeera credentials


SPJ News Release - Tuesday, March 25, 2003

For Immediate Release

Mac McKerral
, president-elect, 813/873-8225, mmckerral@spj.org

INDIANAPOLIS-- The Society of Professional Journalists on Tuesday asked the New York Stock Exchange to reconsider its decision to revoke credentials issued by it to reporters working for Al-Jazeera.

The Associated Press reported Tuesday that the Arab TV network Al-Jazeera said Monday two of its reporters covering the NYSE have had their credentials revoked because of the satellite station’s coverage of the war in Iraq. Al-Jazeera officials said they have covered the exchange for years and believe theirs is the only channel affected by the new curbs.

Exchange spokesman Ray Pellechia denied the station’s war coverage was the cause and told the AP “security reasons” dictated a move 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.”

Mac McKerral, president-elect of the Society of Professional Journalists and editor of The Business Journal Serving Greater Tampa, said the NYSE is making a mistake.

“If the New York Stock Exchange wants to make a contribution to news coverage of all the issues the market touches, it needs to buy into treating all journalists fairly, regardless of who they work for or their country of origin,” McKerral said. “And it needs to sell off the notion that doing otherwise will bring about anything helpful. As an organization representing 10,000 journalists - some working in foreign countries right now - SPJ strongly encourages the exchange officials responsible for this decision to reconsider it.”

McKerral called the decision “reckless” and one fraught with potential harm for American journalists who work abroad.

“A decision to deny Al-Jazeera reporters credentials does nothing to support our country’s image as a place where the free exchange of ideas and information serves as the foundation for everything America does. The reported explanation for the denial of credentials is awfully weak, and I think most people see that. It’s the well-worn security trump card.”

Denying media credentials for journalists has always been a way for governmental and private entities to punish people for what someone perceives as inappropriate news coverage.

“It’s happened to American sports writers who don’t back the home team, entertainment writers who give bad reviews and even those reporters who cover government at all levels,” McKerral said.

“It appears the Al-Jazeera reporters are victims of an old trick whose time has passed. As financial reporters, they certainly should maintain their ability to cover The New York Stock Exchange, regardless of what some might think about Al-Jazeera’s coverage of other global issues, including the war with Iraq.”

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, the AP reported.

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The Society of Professional Journalists works to improve and protect journalism. SPJ is dedicated to encouraging the free practice of journalism and stimulating high standards of ethical behavior. Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi, and based in Indianapolis, SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to a well-informed public; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and protects First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press.

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