A Canadian newspaper has apologized for publishing an erroneous story last week that said the Iranian parliament had passed a law requiring Jews and Christians to wear badges identifying them as religious minorities in public.
The story published inThe National Post
last Friday has stirred up an international row, and the Iranian government on Wednesday summoned Canada's ambassador to the foreign ministry in Teheran.
Douglas Kelly, editor-in-chief of The National Post
, ran a lengthy Page 2 column in Wednesday's editions explaining that the story was based on a column by Amir Taheri, an Iranian author and journalist, and two expatriate Iranians living in Canada.
"We acknowledge that on this story, we did not exercise sufficient caution and skepticism, and we did not check with enough sources," Kelly wrote. "We should have pushed the sources we did have for more corroboration of the information they were giving us."
He noted the newspaper believed it had confirmation of the story from the Simon Wiesenthal Center - which later told the paper it had not independently confirmed Taheri's allegations - the Iranian exiles and then a no-comment response from the Iranian Embassy in Ottawa.
"We apologize for the mistake and for the consternation it has caused not just National Post
readers, but the broader public who read the story," Kelly said.
Taheri, on his Web site, wrote that The National Post
"jumped the gun" and misinterpreted his original column. He insisted, however, that his sources in Teheran's parliament tell him that the concept of badges for religious minorities has been discussed for several years.
Iran's conservative parliament last week began debating a draft law that would discourage women from wearing Western clothing and encourage citizens to wear Islamic-style garments.
The National Post
, quoting Iranian expatriates living in Canada, reported the law would require "Iran's roughly 25,000 Jews ... to sew a yellow strip of cloth on the front of their clothes, while Christians would wear red badges and Zoroastrians would be forced to wear blue cloth."
The report brought immediate criticism from the US and The Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, a Jewish human rights group, was compelled to send a letter to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan asking him to look into the matter.