Iranian authorities closed down Al Arabiya's Tehran bureau Sunday afternoon amid heightened tensions in the violent aftermath of a disputed election victory by incumbent Mahmoud Ahmedinijad over leading reformist rival Mir Hossein Mousavi.
Officials gave no explanation for the decision to shut the office for a week, effectively preventing broadcasting from the country amid riots and protests by reformists over what they allege was a fraudulent election and rival protests planned by supporters of Ahmedinijad.
Diaa al-Nasseri, Al Arabiya’s correspondent in Tehran, announced Iran’s decision live on-air and said he was asked by the Ministry of Information to change a report and then notified that the offices would be closed for a week.
He added that the decision came after hours of negotiations between ministry officials and Al Arabiya, but that the ministry, which is charged with handling media accreditation, refused to provide justification for suspending the bureau's activities.
“Al Arabiya is worried about being banned from the chance to cover an important country like Iran during an important event like the elections and afterwards without explaining the reason behind that decision,” said Nabil Khatib, executive news manager of Dubai-based Al Arabiya.
“Our correspondent just got a call after we announced the news inviting him for a meeting at the ministry tomorrow to discuss the situation. Until then he’s banned from doing any work,” he added.
On Saturday, Iranian authorities ordered some foreign correspondents covering the elections to leave the country immediately amid violent clashes by protesters and the largest street demonstrations since the 1979 revolution.
This is not the first time Al Arabiya has come under attack from Iranian authorities. Last September the ministry revoked the media accreditation of Al Arabiya bureau chief Hassan Fahs without prior notice and the Persian-language website has been blocked at times.