Group of journalists missing in BaghdadAl-Jazeera barred from Nasdaq

New York, March 26, 2003—The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is concerned about the safety of a group of at least three journalists in Baghdad who have reportedly been expelled from the country.

Newsday reporter Matt McAllester and photographer Moises Saman were last heard from Monday evening. Molly Bingham, a freelance photographer, is also missing. There were conflicting reports that Iraqi officials took the three journalists from the Hotel Palestine in Baghdad, telling them they were being expelled from the country allegedly because of visa problems. Some journalists in Baghdad reported that the journalists were put on buses headed for Damascus, Syria. Others said the bus was headed to Amman, Jordan. However, as of this evening, the journalists remain missing.

Also, in Baghdad, there are conflicting reports about whether the Al-Rashid Hotel—until recently the main residence for foreign media stationed in the capital—was slightly damaged last night in the U.S. and coalition military strike on Iraqi media facilities. (Click here for CPJ’s statement about the attack on Iraqi television) One CPJ source in Baghdad, reported that no journalists were in the hotel at the time of the bombing.

Nasdaq rejects accreditation applications
Meanwhile in New York, the Nasdaq stock market rejected accreditation applications of business correspondents Ammar Shankari and Ramzi Shiber who work for the Qatar-based satellite channel Al-Jazeera. The two journalists had applied for accreditation at the Nasdaq after the NYSE pulled their press accreditation yesterday, citing alleged attempts to reduce the number of journalists on the stock exchange floor and give priority to financial networks and their reporters.

The Al-Jazeera journalists were the only reporters expelled from the NYSE. A Nasdaq spokeswoman confirmed that the journalists’ accreditation was denied, but would not provide further comment or details.

The Los Angeles Times, however, quoted Nasdaq spokesman Scott Peterson yesterday as saying that “in light of Al-Jazeera’s recent conduct during the war, in which they have broadcast footage of U.S. POWs in alleged violation of the Geneva Convention, they are not welcome to broadcast from our facility at this time.” The spokeswoman told CPJ that she could neither “confirm nor deny” his statement.

Other developments

  • Two Iranian journalists—television producer Ali Montazeri and cameraman Abdel Reza Abbasi—who were reportedly detained by non-uniformed soldiers have been released and are enroute to Tehran, said Salwa Khazem, head of newsgathering at the Dubai Business Channel, one of a number of media outlets for whom the journalists were working. The journalists were detained earlier this week after arriving in Iraq from Iran by boat, Khazem said.

    Sultan Sulieman, an editor for Al-Hayat-LBC in Beirut, for whom the journalists were also on assignment, told CPJ that soldiers in civilian clothing detained the journalists who were filming in Iraq’s Al-Fao peninsula.

  • A non-embedded U.S. reporter in northern Kuwait told CPJ that she and other reporters, who had followed a British convoy in the Safwan-Al Zubyr-Basra-Umm Qasr area, retreated to Kuwait on Monday when the security situation there deteriorated. “There is very little military control of the south and an increasingly strong Iraqi guerrilla war going on there,” she said. “A great many journalists operating in the south have been shot at or otherwise gotten into trouble.”
  • In Sudan, police attacked correspondent Islam Salih and cameraman Muhamamd el-Hassan, a correspondent and cameraman respectively for Al-Jazeera, as they covered anti-war student protests in Khartoum near the U.S. embassy on March 22. Salih said four policemen approached them and began beating them with batons as they interviewed students.