British journalist removed from Iran as tensions continue

By staff writers
January 5, 2008

The Islamic Republic of Iran has refused to renew the visa of a British journalist based in Tehran, forcing him to leave the country. They have aid they will accept a "suitable replacement". The move reflects continuing tension between Iran and the West.

The Guardian, a liberal newspaper, reported that its correspondent Robert Tait had been "expelled" from Iran without explanation after his visa and residence permit were not renewed.

The Iranian authorities say that they not view the move as an expulsion but as "an administrative move" - one of a number in recent years.

"We do not like to use that word [expulsion] for this case," an official from the foreign media department at the Culture and Islamic Guidance Ministry told news agencies this morning.

He continued: "[Mr Tait's] visa was not extended. [The ministry] welcomes the Guardian continuing its activity in Iran. We have sent a letter to the Guardian and asked them to introduce a new correspondent."

The Iranian authorities have not yet said why why Mr Tait's visa has not been renewed.

According to the Guardian, the authorities originally threatened to deport the 43-year-old correspondent in March 2007 because officials were unhappy with his reporting.

However, Mr Tait was allowed to stay in Iran after his paper appealed against the decision. He has now returned to Britain with his Iranian wife. Guardian's editor Alan Rusbridger has appealed to the Iranian government to reconsider its decision.

The Guardian points out that another of its correspondents, Dan De Luce, was expelled in 2004 after reporting from the earthquake-damaged city of Bam without official permission.

His predecessor for the Guardian, Geneive Abdo, left Tehran in 2001, expressing fears she might be punished after authorities criticised her interview with a political prisoner.

Free speech and human rights organisations are concerned about the current crackdown on freedom of expression within Iran.

Peace and church groups also say that the flow of information is vital in order to be able to distinguish fact from propaganda, as neocons push the case for military action against Iran over the long running nuclear dispute.

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