Last updated: 2 April, 2012

Iran suspends Reuters news bureau indefinitely

The Tehran bureau of international news agency Reuters has been “suspended indefinitely” because of a report it issued mischaracterising Iranian female ninjas as “terrorists,” authorities said on Monday.

The head of the department in the culture and Islamic guidance ministry that monitors foreign media in Iran, Mohammad Javad Aghajari, announced the decision in a statement published by the official Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA).

“The decision was taken following the production of a video clip by this news agency’s video department branding some Iranian female athletes who practice ninjutsu as terrorists,” he was quoted as saying.

The report referred to was sent to Reuters clients in early February and showed female ninjas training in the city of Karaj, northwest of Tehran.

Reuters said last week the report went out with the headline “Thousands of female Ninjas train as Iran’s assassins” but, after complaints were received from Iran, it was changed to “Three thousand women Ninjas train in Iran”.

Iran’s state-funded Press TV reported that several female ninjas in the story planned to sue Reuters for defamation.

In a report on Monday, Press TV said Reuters had failed to apologise for accusing the female ninjutsu practitioners of being “undercover assassins in the service of the Islamic Republic.”

Aghajari, in his comments published by IRNA, said the Reuters report “left a very negative image” by insinuating that “the teaching of assassination and terrorism (occurs) in Iran.”

He said the ninja report showed “a desire within this news agency to manipulate public opinion.”

Aghajari said the Reuters bureau was suspended “until the complete review of the issue.”

The Iranian authorities routinely monitor and restrict the activities of foreign journalists.

Their sensitivity over the way Iran is portrayed in Western media has become more acute in recent years, since the coverage of mass protests in 2009 over a disputed re-election win by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.