Tehran suspended nationwide operations of Aljazeera on Monday, accusing it of inflaming violent protests by Iran's Arab minority in southwestern Iran, state-run TV reported.

 

Reacting to the move, Aljazeera spokesman Jihad Ballout said the broadcaster's Tehran bureau "was advised verbally that its professional activities are temporarily suspended".

 

Ballout said in a statement on Monday: "While Aljazeera Channel regrets this unexpected and unwarranted decision, it reiterates its intention to continue to be guided in its editorial policy by its ever present professional ethos 'the opinion and the other opinion' enshrined in its Code of Professional Ethics."

 

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"Aljazeera further assures its audience that it will continue to cover Iranian affairs objectively, comprehensively and in a balanced way, and calls on the relevant Iranian authorities to reconsider the decision to suspend its bureau’s activities," Ballout added.

 

"Aljazeera further assures its audience that it will continue to cover Iranian affairs objectively, comprehensively and in a balanced way"

Jihad Ballout,
Aljazeera spokesman

For its part, the Arab Committee for the Defence of Journalists called on the Iranian authorities to reverse their decision, saying that closing press and media offices will harm Iran's image and make the country vulnerable to accusations of repression.

 

Aljazeera is believed to have been the first news outfit to broadcast news of the ethnic unrest in Iran's southwest Khuzestan province. The clashes also featured in the station's talk shows.

 

Tehran ordered the station to cease operations in Iran until the network explained the motives behind its coverage, which Tehran believes exacerbated the violence.

 

Violent protests

 

"If it is proved that Aljazeera committed a crime, it will be prosecuted," Muhammad Hossein Khoshvaght, an official at Iran's Culture and Islamic Guidance Ministry, told state-run TV on Monday.

 

"We suspended its activity in Iran to investigate the network's role in unrest in Ahvaz," Khoshvaght said. "We expect the network to respect Iran's national integrity and security."

 

Also on Monday, the Iranian government said, two more protesters died, bringing the three-day toll to three dead and at least eight injured.

 

Violent demonstrations erupted in Arab-dominated Khuzestan province on Friday and Saturday after rumours spread of an alleged government plan to move non-Arabs into the region.