Cameraman defects on US trip with Iran leader

Cameraman defects on US trip with Iran leader

Cameraman defects on US trip with Iran leader

Iranian President Ahmadinejad sits with his delegation before addressing the UN General Assembly in New York on Sept 26. EPA photo

A cameraman who was accompanying Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the United States for the United Nations General Assembly in New York has defected, according to his lawyer.

 Paul O’Dwyer, a New York City-based lawyer who is representing Hassan Gol Khanban, confirmed on Sept. 30 that his client is seeking asylum in the U.S., The Associated Press reported. It’s not clear on what grounds Khanban can apply for asylum. Khanban came to the U.S. as part of the 140-person Iranian entourage attending last week’s U.N. General Assembly meeting, but he managed to stay behind and find O’Dwyer to represent him. Ahmadinejad addressed the assembly on Sept. 26, for the last time as president of Iran.

The pressure on members of the press close to Ahmadinejad is on the rise. The most recent case is the sentencing of an aide close to Ahmadinejad to a six-month prison term. Ali Akbar Javanfekr, also the head of Iran’s state news agency (IRNA), was convicted for publishing an article about Islamic dress that was deemed offensive to public decency.

Another court decision against journalists came from Tehran as a special media court found the Tehran bureau chief of Thomson Reuters news agency guilty on Sept. 30 of “spreading lies” against the Islamic system for a video story that briefly included a posted description of women training as martial arts killers, The Associated Press reported.

Fars apologizes for publishing fake story

The state-owned news website quotes Ali Akbar Kasaeian, spokesman for the court panel, as saying Iranian Parisa Hafezi was convicted of propaganda-related offenses for a February video that initially carried a headline saying the women were training as ninja “assassins.” Most of the Reuters staff shifted to Dubai, but Hafezi was not allowed to leave Iran.

Meanwhile, the country’s semi-official Fars news agency apologized on Sept. 30 to its readers for publishing as fact an opinion poll from American satirical website The Onion. “Unfortunately an incorrect item was released on our website on Friday [Sept. 28] which included a fake opinion poll... We offer our formal apologies for that mistake,” Fars quoted its English Service’s editor-in-chief as saying. In its Sept. 28 report, Fars quoted The Onion’s report that said rural white Americans would rather vote for Ahmadinejad than U.S. President Barack Obama.

Fars cited Gallup as a source for the poll rather than The Onion.

“Although it does not justify our mistake, we do believe that if a free opinion poll is conducted in the U.S., a majority of Americans would prefer anyone outside the U.S. political system to President Barack Obama and American statesmen,” the Fars editor also added in its apology article. The article then continued by citing a number of blunders by other news outlets.