x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Iran lashes out at media coverage

Confusion surrounds the Tehran demonstrations death toll as media ordered to leave the country and the daughter of former president Hashemi Rafsanjani is arrested.

Iran State media has reported at least 10 more deaths in post-election unrest and said authorities have arrested the daughter and four other relatives of former President Hashemi Rafsanjani, one of Iran's most powerful men. The reports brought the official death toll for a week of unrest to at least 19. However reports have been conflicting as more media outlets are refused access to Tehran. The British media were warned of further action if it continues to "interfere" in the affairs of the Islamic republic, the Mehr news agency reported. "If various British radio and television networks continue to interfere in our country's domestic affairs by broadcasting fake and incorrect reports of Iran or ignoring international journalism ethics, there will be more stern action taken," it quoted the ministry of culture and Islamic guidance as saying. The comments came after the Fars news agency said the BBC correspondent in Tehran, Jon Leyne, had been given 24 hours to leave country. The Dubai-based television channel Al-Arabiya said its Tehran bureau has been ordered to remain closed indefinitely for "unfair reporting" of last week's disputed presidential election. "The authorities accuse Al-Arabiya of diffusing news that is not necessarily fair from their point of view," the channel's editor-in-chief, Mohammed al-Khateeb, told AFP. "They have ordered that we do not broadcast any news about Iran, saying Al-Arabiya in Dubai does not comply with what Al-Arabiya office in Tehran was ordered to do." On June 14, the Iranian authorities ordered Al-Arabiya's Tehran office to be closed for a week following the contested official results of the election two days earlier. Meanwhile, the daughter of former Iranian president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a rival of the president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was detained during an opposition rally in Tehran yesterday, an Iranian news agency said. Fars News Agency, citing a security official, said Faezeh Rafsanjani and some other relatives had attended the protest and were detained in order to "preserve their security from terror acts of rioters". It said they were transferred to the nearest military base and were kept there until the end of the unrest, suggesting they had been released.

World leaders have voiced mounting alarm over the unrest, which has jolted the pillars of the Islamic regime and raised concerns over the future of the oil-rich Shiite Muslim powerhouse. But Mr Ahmadinejad bluntly told the United States and Britain to stop interfering after the foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki accused London of plotting for the past two years to sabotage the election. "By making hasty comments, you will not have a place in the circle of the Iranian nation's friends. Therefore, I recommend you to correct your interfering positions," Mr Ahmadinejad said in a statement on his website.

* Agencies