A Tehran jury on Sunday found the international news agency Reuters guilty of the crime of “propaganda against the regime” for a report mischaracterising female ninja students as assassins, Iranian media said.
Reuters was also found guilty of “publishing false information in an effort to disturb public opinion” over the ninja report published in February, Iran’s official news agency IRNA said, quoting the Tehran prosecutor’s office.
It is now up to the judge of the Tehran court to give a final verdict and any sentence. He was expected to do so in coming weeks, the channel Press TV reported, without giving a date.
Reuters can appeal a conviction.
The news agency, part of the New York-based Thomson Reuters group since 2008, issued a statement saying: “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.”
The company was represented in court by its Tehran bureau chief, Parisa Hafezi, an Iranian national who has been prevented from leaving the country pending the outcome of the legal proceedings.
Iranian authorities confiscated the press credentials of all staff in the Reuters bureau in March and suspended its operations.
The case stems from a Reuters video report on a group of female ninjas training in the martial art in the city of Karaj, west of Tehran.
The original headline on the story erroneously read “Thousands of female Ninjas train as Iran’s assassins”.
Reuters subsequently changed the headline to read “Three thousand women Ninjas train in Iran”. It later removed the report.
Reuters global editor in chief, Stephen Adler, told The New York Times newspaper on March 29 that the headline mistake was not malicious, and added: “I don’t see factual errors in the story.”
The authorities routinely monitor and restrict the activities of the few journalists working for foreign media in Iran.
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