Television

Iran ban on Al-Jazeera "spiteful": IFJ

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MUMBAI: The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has condemned the Iranian government's decision to ban Al-Jazeera in the country, calling it a "spiteful act of censorship."

The Iranian government closed the offices of the Arab satellite television channel in Tehran, accusing it of inflaming violent protests by the country's Arab minority.

"This closure is a spiteful act of censorship and a blatant attempt by the authorities to make media the scapegoat for civil unrest," said IFJ general secretary Aidan White. "If Iran has complaints about media standards it should seek professional redress, not take action that undermines Press freedom and pluralism."

The IFJ says that the ban on Al-Jazeera should be lifted and the office re-opened.

The Al-Jazeera interview of the Popular Democratic Front of Ahawazi Arabs in Iran, a London-based organisation which is forbidden in the country and has denounced "80 years of Iranian occupation in Khuzestan", has apparently sparked the retaliation of the authorities. The government has denied the authenticity of a document quoted by the Front's representative, which was referring to alleged plans to revise the ethnic composition of the area.

According to a BBC News report, three people have died in ethnic clashes in Iran's south-west Khuzestan province over the past few days. The IFJ statement says at least one person died after Arab-Iranians went on the rampage in the city of Ahvaz, near the border with Iraq, at the weekend.

"Al-Jazeera coverage of the events respected a strictly journalistic and balanced view of opinions, which by no means signified the adhesion of the media itself to the position of the interviewees," said White.

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