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Al Jazeera ousted from NYSE
Exchange spurns Arab satellite channel, network regrets NYSE's decision; Web Site attacked.
March 25, 2003: 7:26 PM EST
By Parija Bhatnagar, CNN/Money Staff Writer

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Qatar-based satellite TV network Al Jazeera said Tuesday it was "deeply concerned" over the decision by the New York Stock Exchange to oust the Arab media outlet from the trading floor.

"Al Jazeera regrets the decision of the New York Stock Exchange, just as it regrets any restrictions on the freedom of the press," the network said in a statement. "We urge the NYSE to reconsider its decision in the interests of upholding the values of the United States of America."

The New York Stock Exchange banned Al Jazeera late Monday, saying it was restricting access to networks that offer "responsible" coverage of business news.

"We only have a finite number of slots available within the exchange for broadcast networks and demand for space has been increasing ever since the war began," said Ray Pellecchia, spokesman for the NYSE.

Pellecchia said security precautions did influence the NYSE's decision about restricting the number of news outlets. He added that several other news organizations have also been asked to leave but didn't name them. Pellecchia said the decision regarding Al Jazeera was "indefinite."

Al Jazeera said its two reporters had been reporting from the NYSE since the mid-nineties.

The network has come under increasing criticism in the United States for its coverage of the war with Iraq, including its decision to air video footage provided by Iraqi officials. A source at the NYSE told CNNfn that Al Jazeera's recent war coverage was indeed a factor in banning the network.

Al Jazeera, often touted as the "CNN" of the Arab world, was founded in 1996 and has an audience of about 65 million viewers worldwide. The network also has reporters at the White House, the U.S. State Department and the Pentagon.

Top U.S. government officials, including National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, have recently appeared on the network

But some media watchdogs called the NYSE's move "troubling."

"We're troubled by the report and we're in the process of investigating it," said Joel Campagna, Middle East program coordinator with the Committee to Protect Journalists.

"We're worried that Arab journalists may be harassed because of their work," Campagna added, citing a case last month of an Iraqi reporter at the United Nations with the Iraq News Agency who was asked to leave the country.

According to a United Nations spokesman, the Iraqi journalist, Mohammed Alawi, was asked to leave the country late last month after his visa was revoked by the U.S. State Department.

Nihad Awad, national executive director with the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said he was disappointed with the NYSE's decision.

"The New York Stock Exchange is behaving like the Iraqi regime," Awad said. "Iraq expelled American journalists and now it's doing the same. The censorship of the press by the business community is unjustified. It sends a negative message that it's all right to shoot the messenger."

Separately, Reuters reported that Al Jazeera's Web site was hit by a hacker attack Wednesday that prevented staffers from updating the site. A spokeswoman said Al Jazeera was aware that the Web site was inaccessible but could not confirm the nature of the problem.  Top of page

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