Reporters Without Borders is worried by yesterday's Tehran jury decision finding Reuters guilty of "anti-government propaganda" for briefly referring to members of a women's martial arts club as Ninja assassins.
The decision refers to the headline "Thousands of female Ninjas train as Iran’s assassins" which the news agency initially attached to a video it distributed about the club last March. Reuters' editor-in-chief quickly acknowledged the mistake and ordered an internal investigation.
The Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance nonetheless told the news agency’s Tehran bureau at the time that the press cards of its entire staff would be revoked.
The Tehran court's presiding judge has not yet confirmed yesterday's jury decision but the worst is to be expected. By convicting Reuters, the Iranian authorities are targeting all foreign media, with the aim of getting them to censor themselves. It is an extension of the constant measures to gag the Iranian media.
30.03.2012 - Reuters accreditation suspended by Tehran in row over video headline
Reporters Without Borders deplores the restrictions imposed by the Iranian government on foreign news organizations. Two days ago, the authorities suspended the accreditation of journalists working for the Reuters news agency in Teheran on the grounds that it had broadcast a report containing an error.
“The latest infringement of the right to report the news shows the Teheran authorities are doing utmost to ban the correspondents of foreign news organizations from the Islamic Republic,” the press freedom organization said.
“The government filters all news and information that appears outside the country. The correspondents of foreign media are kept under scrutiny and under pressure, and are banned from writing about ‘sensitive subjects’.
A video distributed by the agency showed a women’s martial arts club in Tehran with the headline: "Thousands of female Ninjas train as Iran's assassins".
Reuters editor-in-chief, Stephen Adler, immediately acknowledged the mistake and said the agency had already conducted an internal review and had “taken appropriate steps to prevent a recurrence".
Despite this gesture of goodwill, the Iranian ministry of culture and Islamic guidance told the agency’s Tehran bureau it was revoking the press cards of all of its staff.
A day earlier, the government’s English language television station Press TV reported that some of the “female Ninjas” were filing lawsuits against Reuters.
For the past two years, many international media correspondents have had their visa renewal requests rejected and been forced to leave the country, including those from the French agency Agence France-Presse, the BBC and Spain’s El Pais newspaper.
Iran is ranked 175th of 179 countries in the world press freedom index compiled by Reporters Without Borders.