British regulator dismisses Iran complaints over attack coverage

Broadcasting authorities said Iran International did not breach rules over Ahvaz attack

FILE - In this file photo dated Monday, Sept. 24, 2018, families of victims of Saturday's terror attack on a military parade in the southwestern city of Ahvaz, that killed 25 people mourn at a mass funeral ceremony, in Ahvaz, Iran.  A Norwegian citizen of Iranian descent was arrested Oct. 21, 2018, on suspicion of helping an unspecified Iranian intelligence service "to act in Denmark” against the ASMLA, according to Danish security service chief Finn Borch Andersen and Tehran has blamed the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahwaz (ASMLA) for a terror attack on a military parade in Ahvaz on Sept. 22 that left at least 25 people dead. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi, FILE)

London-based network Iran International did not breach broadcasting rules by giving airtime to a separatist spokesman after an attack on the Iranian city of Ahvaz, which killed at least 25 people including a four-year-old child, British regulators ruled.

The regulator Ofcom found that material in the report was “justified by the context” in which it was broadcast.

Ya’ghub Hor Al Tostari, a spokesman for the Al Ahvaz Movement, told the channel that a viewing platform for dignitaries was targeted in a “legitimate” attack in September last year and said there were “no ordinary civilians” among the dead.

He was challenged by presenters and airtime was given to other commentators and governments who had condemned the attack.

Iran’s ambassador to the UK, Hamid Baeidinejad, tweeted details of Ofcom’s findings and confirmed that the embassy had brought the complaint.

The death toll included children and was widely condemned with the UN Security Council calling it a “cowardly and heinous” attack.

“Terrorism in all its forms and manifestations constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security,” the UN said.

Mr Tostari’s comments to Iran International – which broadcasts in Farsi to a global Iranian audience – led to four complaints to the UK’s broadcasting regulator, Ofcom.

Mr Tostari’s group was not behind the attack but was closely linked to militants who claimed responsibility for the bombing.

He told the network on the day of the bombing that the armed fight had continued against strategic targets and the military since 2005 and “we have continued these actions as long as no ordinary citizens are harmed”.

Iran International, which launched in May last year, claims that it is neither pro nor anti-regime and that any criticism of its coverage of the attack “emanated from the Iranian government or its publications or known supporters”.

But its coverage has angered the regime in Tehran.

The National reported earlier this year that the regime asked Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, the British-Iranian dual national detained for nearly three years, to spy on a small media consultancy once led by the current general manager of the Iran International Network.

Mahmoud Enayat had previously worked with Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe while she was at the BBC’s international development charity.