ROME, 5 June (IPS-AFP) The United Nations Food And Agriculture Organisation apologised Wednesday to Mr. Ahmad Rafat, an internationally known Iranian journalist who was barred from the Summit the UN food agtency organised in Rome to discuss and review the growing world food and agriculture crisis, allegedly due to opposition from the Islamic state whose president was among participants here.
Mr. Rafat, a former Senior correspondent for the Middle East and the Balkans of the prestigious and influential Spanish news magazine El Tiempo, based in Rome, where he lives, was accredited for the three-day summit, but when he tried to enter Tuesday his accreditation was seized and he was told he was considered "a person not desired by Iranian authorities," his agency reported.
Rafat, who is a deputy Editor to the largest Itanian private news agency ADN-Kronos International, is a harsh critic of the Iranian mollahrchy and a fervent defender of the cause of Iranian students, women, journalists and intellectuals, as well as human rights in Iran, said he believed his accreditation was withdrawn because he "criticized the lack of freedom of information in Iran.
Rafat was accredited for the three-day summit, but when he tried to enter Tuesday his accreditation was seized and he was told he was considered "a person not desired by Iranian authorities.
However, asn informed source told Iran Press Service that it was the Iranian embassy in Rome that informed the organisers that "barring Mr. Rafat was an express demand from the Iranian presidency".
In fact, a few hours latter, the fanatic Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was on the tribune, accusing western major powers for the crisis that is badly affecting poorer nations.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said it was sorry after the incident involving Ahmad Rafat, who also covers for the Persian service of the Prague-based Radio Farda and the Television programmes of the Voice of America.
"I hope Ahmad Rafat will accept the apologies of the organization and myself following this incident", said FAO communications official Nick Parsons in a statement, adding the "FAO was extremely satisfied that the issue of Mr. Rafat's access has been resolved".The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) voiced concern at the incident, describing Rafat as a "highly respected journalist," who has covered the Middle East and Balkans and reports extensively on Iran.
It added that the incident was the second case involving journalists being barred from major UN events in recent weeks.
Journalists from Taiwan were barred from the World Health Assembly last month in Geneva after a UN prohibition put on Taiwanese media at the behest of China, said the IFJ.
"The UN agencies must not be used as the battleground for member states to victimise journalists they don't like," said IFJ chief Aidan White in a statement.
"The UN should be providing models of pluralism and respect for media freedom," he added.
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, to which belongs Radio Farda also complained to the FAO, stating that Mr. Rafat is a highly professionnal journalist and the organisers have to officially appologise to him and pledge to not repeat such incidents. ENDS RAFAT 5608