A jury in Tehran has found the news agency Reuters "guilty of propagating against the Islamic Republic and disseminating false information to disturb public opinion" for running a story titled, "Thousands of female Ninjas train as Iran's assassins."
The story was run in March 2012. Reuters subsequently corrected the story, after the martial arts club where the video was filmed made a complaint, and the news agency apologized for the error. The story's headline was then corrected to read "Three thousand women Ninjas train in Iran".
The video shows women clad in black from head to toe, running up walls and flipping backwards, and diving and rolling over swords held at waist heights, performing ninja skills.
An Iranian Culture Ministry official accused Reuters of calling the martial arts students terrorists. He said that they are, in fact, "university students and housewives" who "engaged in this sport because of their love for the sport."
Iranian national Parisa Hafezi, Reuters' Bureau Chief in Iran, was subsequently charged on several counts including spreading lies and propaganda against the establishment. She was banned from traveling, and her passport was confiscated. Reuters’ Iranian bureau was suspended, and the branch's 11 staffers were forced to return their press cards.
Editor-in-chief, Stephen J. Adler, said, "We acknowledge this error occurred and regard it as a very serious matter," adding that officials at the company had "conducted an internal review and have taken appropriate steps to prevent a recurrence."
However, a press court to target 'media crimes' was created in February 2011. According to an Iranian official this was necessary because of developments in mass media and "special media crimes."
On Sunday, the jury of Iran's Press Court, found the Tehran bureau chief for Reuters "guilty of propagating against the Islamic Republic and disseminating false information to disturb public opinion."
In a story about the verdict on its website, Reuters said, "We understand that the jury has stated its view and we now await the court's ruling. We do not intend to comment further until a decision is issued."
Press TV reported that a judge will make his final ruling in October, and the news agency can appeal the decision.