Iran jury finds Reuters guilty over 'ninja' report

Jury votes to convict news organization over martial arts report for incorrectly referring to athletes as "assassins."

September 30, 2012 16:19
2 minute read.
Members of Iran's women's national soccer team

Iran Women Football 370. (photo credit: REUTERS/Caren Firouz)


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DUBAI - An Iranian jury voted on Sunday to convict the Reuters news organization over a video script that contained an error, Iran's Press TV reported. The final decision will be made by a judge, who is expected to issue his verdict next month.

In March, the Iranian government suspended the press accreditation of Reuters staff in Tehran after the publication of a video script on women's martial arts training that incorrectly referred to the athletes as "assassins." Reuters journalists have not been able to report inside Iran since then.

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"A jury member at a Tehran penal court told Press TV on Sunday that the news agency was found guilty of propagating against the Islamic Republic and disseminating false information to disturb public opinion," Press TV said in an article on its website.

It said the court was due to issue its ruling early in October, adding that Reuters could appeal.

The jury acts in an advisory capacity in this court, and the final verdict rests with the judge.

"We understand that the jury has stated its view and we now await the Court's ruling. We do not intend to comment further until a decision is issued," a Reuters spokesperson said.

Reuters, the news arm of Thomson Reuters, the global news and information group, corrected the story after the martial arts club where the video was filmed made a complaint. Reuters also apologized for the error.


The story's headline, "Thousands of female Ninjas train as Iran's assassins," was corrected to read "Three thousand women Ninjas train in Iran."

Reuters' Bureau Chief in Iran, Iranian national Parisa Hafezi, was subsequently charged on several counts including spreading lies and propaganda against the establishment. She was banned from traveling, and her passport was confiscated.

As bureau chief, Hafezi formally leads Reuters' Iran operations, but is only responsible for the text stories written by the bureau, not the visuals, captions or scripts produced by the television journalists or photographers.

Reuters Editor-in-Chief Stephen J. Adler said in March the company had conducted an internal review after the incorrect TV script was published and had taken steps to prevent a recurrence.

"Reuters always strives for the highest standards in journalism and our policy is to acknowledge errors honestly and correct them promptly when they occur," he added.

Hafezi joined Reuters as a staff member in 2003, and held various reporting positions in the Tehran bureau before being appointed bureau chief in 2009.

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