Iran revokes New York Times correspondent’s accreditation

US newspaper goes public over four-month-old decision amid ‘speculation on social media’ over Iran coverage.

The New York Times said Thomas Erdbrink had been unable to report in Iran since February [File: Vahid Salemi/AP]
The New York Times said Thomas Erdbrink had been unable to report in Iran since February [File: Vahid Salemi/AP]

Iran has revoked the press accreditation for the New York Times’ Tehran bureau chief without explanation, the newspaper reported.

The correspondent, 43-year-old Dutch citizen Thomas Erdbrink, had reported for the NYT from the Islamic republic since 2012 but had been unable to work since late February when his credentials were revoked by Tehran, according to a report by the newspaper on Monday.

The NYT said it had decided to go public with his situation “after recent speculation and comments on social media”.

“Mr Erdbrink’s absence from the news report has become increasingly conspicuous because of escalating tensions between the Iranian authorities and the United States,” the paper’s report said.

Tensions between the United States and Iran have simmered in recent weeks after more than a year of increasingly fractious relations unleashed by President Donald Trump’s decision in May 2018 to withdraw from a landmark nuclear deal.

Under the 2015 agreement, Iran agreed to scale back its nuclear programme in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.

Since pulling out of the nuclear deal, the White House has rolled out a “maximum pressure” policy against Iran. As part of that, Trump’s administration reimposed punitive sanctions and moved to cut the country’s oil exports to zero, sending its economy into freefall. 

The US also blacklisted Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a “terrorist group”, which prompted a tit-for-tat response from Tehran. Last month, Washington bolstered its military presence in the Gulf in response to an unspecified threat.

Since then, a war of words between the rivals has continued to escalate, with Tehran accusing the US of waging “psychological warfare” and “economic terrorism” with its various moves.

‘Our man in Tehran’

Amid the high tensions, Michael Slackman, the paper’s international editor, was quoted as saying there were “some indications” the situation would be resolved in the near future.

“Officials of Iran’s Foreign Ministry have repeatedly assured The Times that Mr Erdbrink’s credential would soon be restored but have offered no explanation for the delays or for why it was revoked,” he said.

There was no immediate response from Iranian state-run media or officials in Tehran.

Erdbrink, who previously worked as a correspondent in Iran for The Washington Post, is married to Iranian photographer Newsha Tavakolian, who is represented by the Magnum photo agency.

Both he and Tavakolian were the focus of “Our Man in Tehran,” a 2018 documentary about his work and life as a Western journalist in Iran. Tavakolian has also been denied permission to work by Tehran, NYT said.

Journalists in Iran frequently face harassment from security services and some have been imprisoned for their work. While local journalists bear the brunt of that, foreign journalists in Tehran, especially those with Western ties, have been imprisoned as well.

The last major case involved Iranian-American reporter Jason Rezaian of The Washington Post, who was convicted in a closed-door espionage trial in 2015.

A 2016 prisoner swap negotiated between Iran and the US at the start of the nuclear deal freed Rezaian and three other Iranian-Americans in exchange for pardons or charges being dropped against seven Iranians. That deal also saw the US make a $400m cash delivery to Iran.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies

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