LONDON-TEHRAN 20 May (IPS) Iranian authorities on Thursday expelled the correspondent of the influential newspaper The Guardian because he reported on the aftermath of the Bam earthquake without permission, the paper announced.
The correspondent Dan de Luce, 38, who holds an American passport, would return to London after authorities declined to renew his visa and accreditation.
He would be permitted to reapply in three months time, authorities said.
The Iranian government said the ban was for three months only and De Luce could then re-apply for a resident's visa and press accreditation.
In a statement,the Islamic Guidance and Culture Ministry, which is responsible for foreign journalists in Iran said: "Dan De Luce deliberately contravened the regulations.
In a statement relayed through the embassy in London, the Islamic Guidance and Culture Ministry, which is responsible for foreign journalists in Iran, said: "Dan De Luce deliberately contravened the regulations.
"His professional activities have been suspended for three months and this is not because of what he wrote but because of contravention of the regulations".
De Luce, who had visited the ravaged zone 4 months ago covering the visit of Prince Charles, had published a dispatch last month critical of the reconstruction effort in Bam following last year's earthquake which killed more than 20,000 people.
He then applied with the Ministry to make another visit to Bam, which had been temporarily closed to foreign journalists after an outbreak of violence, but was denied permission to go to Bam to report.
He went there in March to carry out voluntary work with an Iranian NGO, helping to clear debris.
He said he had not at that time been planning to write anything for the press.
But, moved by what he saw and heard in Bam, he wrote an article for the Guardian, published on April 2, in which he reported that the earthquake survivors were critical of the government's reconstruction effort.
He applied to renew his visa on April 25, and was told on May 3 that he would have to leave the country for a period of three months.
He had travelled to the city as an aid volunteer, after being denied a permit to make the trip as a journalist.
"Dan de Luce deliberately contravened the regulations. His professional activities have been suspended for three months and this is not because of what he wrote but because of contravention of the regulations," the Iranian Ministry of Islamic Culture and Guidance said in a statement.
De Luce told the Guardian he was "disappointed to be leaving. I was just trying to do my job. I wrote the story from Bam because I thought it was important to document the situation there, what the survivors and the aid agencies were saying".
Guardian Editor Alan Rusbridger said the expulsion "can only set back our attempts to understand the fast-changing nature of Iranian society", adding he hoped Iran would reconsider.
The Foreign Office said it was for Iran to decide who could enter the country, but de Luce's expulsion "sends the wrong messages about freedom of the press, about Iran's willingness to engage sensibly with the international community".
De Luce's predecessor for the Guardian, Geneive Abdo, left Tehran in 2001, expressing fear she might be punished after authorities criticised her interview with a political prisoner.
Iran's foreign press corps has grown considerably over the past several years as the country improved its relations with Europe, although U.S. news organisations still have only limited representation there.
In a strongly worded message to Ayatollah Ali Khameneh’i, the Rome-based Association of Iranian Journalists Abroad vigorously protested to the decision of expelling Mr. De Luce and also urged him to order the release of all Iranian jailed journalists.
Visiting journalists have occasionally been expelled from Iran or denied visas, but foreign correspondents residing there full-time have not been expelled for many years.
De Luce said yesterday: "It's not reasonable to ban journalists from the site of a major earthquake that attracted so much international attention and aid money. By doing this, they're damaging Iran's reputation needlessly".
He said he believed his expulsion was intended to set an example to other foreign correspondents in Tehran.
"The authorities use visas to keep us on a tight leash. Push too far and you might jeopardise your status here," he said. "And sadly, it tends to be effective".
In a strongly worded message to Ayatollah Ali Khameneh’i, the leader of the Islamic Republic, the Rome-based Association of Iranian Journalists Abroad vigorously protested to the decision of expelling Mr. De Luce and also urged him to order the release of all Iranian jailed journalists.
“The expelling of De Luce is another example of the Islamic Republic’s not tolerating press freedom and its fear of the world becoming aware of the sad situation of the country”, the AIJA noted.
On orders from Mr. Khameneh’i, the Judiciary had arrested a dozen of journalists, editors and columnists and shut more than 100 publications.
[B]The Paris-based Reporters Sans Frontieres has named the Iranian leader as “one of the world’s most dangerous predator of press freedom”. ENDS UK REPORTER EXPELLED 20504