Iran frees 11 protesters, Britain fines Press TV

Iran frees 11 protesters, Britain fines Press TV

Iran has released 11 protesters detained for storming a British diplomatic compound in Tehran, a report said on yesterday, while officials ban foreign media covering any further rallies in front of British diplomatic missions Tehran.

The Fars news agency said the protesters were released late on Nov. 30 after being arrested during the temporary seizure of the British diplomatic residence in Tehran on Tuesday. The Iranian foreign ministry expressed regret over the incident, and a senior police commander was quoted as saying that a number of protesters had been arrested and others were being sought. But parliament speaker Ali Larijani told state television in the clerical capital Qom: “The actions of the British government against the Iranian nation are unjustifiable,” the Mehr news agency reported. Larijani made the comments late Wednesday when Britain ordered the closure of the Iranian embassy in London in response to its embassy and another diplomatic compound in Tehran being stormed by protesters. Larijani -- a hardline leader of a faction that considers itself to be close to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei -- had on Nov.30 justified the attacks, saying protesters had been angered by the British government and “decades of domineering moves by the British in Iran”.

Yesterday, the protest organizers insisted in a statement, carried by Fars, that the attack against the embassy compound was spontaneous, and claimed several protesters had been injured or arrested when police intervened. “The student protesters in front of the den of spies (the British embassy) had absolutely no plans to seize it. It was their revolutionary rage ... that provoked them,” the statement said.

Iran yesterday issued a ban on foreign media covering any further rallies in front of Britain’s diplomatic missions in Tehran after demonstrators ransacked the compounds this week. “We are informing all foreign media representatives that attending demonstrations, particularly in front of the British embassy (and) Qolhak Garden (the British diplomatic residential compound) is not allowed unless previously authorized,” the ministry for Islamic culture and guidance said in a statement.

It is the first time foreign media in Iran have been prohibited from covering pro-regime rallies. Foreign news outlets have been put under many reporting restrictions since a disputed 2009 presidential election that led to civil unrest. Meanwhile, Norway has reopened its embassy in Tehran after a 24-hour closure due to security concerns following the attack by protesters on Britain’s diplomatic mission there. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hilde Steinfeld says the premises opened as usual yesterday morning, after authorities had made a new evaluation of the security situation.

Amid diplomatic crisis with Iran, Britain’s broadcasting watchdog said yesterday it had slapped Iran’s Press TV with a heavy fine, leading the English-language channel to accuse the British royal family of trying to silence it. Ofcom fined the state-run outlet £100,000 for showing an interview in 2009 with Maziar Bahari, an imprisoned journalist for US magazine Newsweek.

The regulator said it had also considered revoking the channel’s license but had instead decided to give it 35 days to transfer the license to its Tehran headquarters from its London office. An Ofcom spokesman said it was the biggest fine that it had imposed for the type of offence. The independent regulator said Press TV had invaded Bahari’s privacy while filming the interview without his consent while he was in detention during protests in Iran in 2009, and that its treatment of him was biased.