Last Updated: Tue Nov 02, 2010 12:34 pm (KSA) 09:34 am (GMT)

Al Arabiya slams Tehran bureau chief's expulsion

Iranian authorities on Tuesday revoked the media accreditation of Al Arabiya News Channel’s Tehran bureau chief, Hassan Fahs, after officials from the Iranian Ministry of Culture and Guidance declared him ‘persona non grata’ without any prior notice.

A senior source at Al Arabiya expressed the channel’s astonishment and condemnation of the decision, stressing the channel’s “on-going commitment to professional standards and balanced reporting, particularly in its coverage of Iranian affairs.”

The source also emphasized the fact that Al Arabiya had not aired any major news item about Iran “without offering a fair and balanced opportunity for Iranian official spokespersons or other pro-government figures to comment”.

Hassan Fahs, for his part, said the decision to expel him was the latest in “a series of concerted public campaigns against Al Arabiya, orchestrated by some Iranian officials and related pro-government media.”

In the same context came the most recent public announcement made by Mr. Jawwad Jahanghir Zadeh, a member of the Iranian parliament's national security and foreign relations committee, who explicitly called for the closure of Al Arabiya’s offices in Iran and a ban on its operating staff in the country.

Zadeh’s statement came in what seems to be a response to Al Arabiya’s broadcast of ‘The Road to the Revolution’ - an acquired documentary film that dicusses the events that lead to the Iranian revolution in 1979.

Hassan Fahs has been a resident of Tehran since the year 2000 and has been operating under a media accreditation from the Iranian authorities in his dual capacity as the Tehran bureau chief for Al Arabiya and the London-based pan-Arab daily newspaper Al Hayat.

Iranian state radio said that students from 10 universities had called for the closure of the offices of AlArabiya.

"This demand came after this network, which is linked with hard-line Saudi movements, broadcast a film insulting Imam (Ruhollah) Khomeini, the founder of Islamic revolution, and Shiite beliefs," the radio said.

In April 2005, the Iranian authorities shut down the bureau of Arab satellite television Al Jazeera amid accusations of stirring up violence in its coverage of clashes in southwestern oil city of Ahvaz, which has a substantial Arab minority. It reopened 14 months later.

In July this year, Agence France Presse's deputy bureau chief in Tehran, Stuart Williams, had to leave the country after being told by Iranian authorities that his visa would not be renewed.

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