LONDON (AP) — British officials are preparing to ban Iran's English-language Press TV, the broadcaster claimed Friday. Regulator Ofcom confirmed that it is considering punitive action but said no decision has yet been made.
The threat of sanctions has been hanging over Press TV since May, when Ofcom ruled that the station broke broadcasting rules by airing a 2009 interview with detained Newsweek correspondent Maziar Bahari.
Bahari was jailed as a suspected spy following Iran's disputed presidential elections and said his televised interview had been scripted by his captors, who threatened to execute him unless he cooperated. Ofcom ruled that Press TV never made clear in its segment that Bahari was under duress and unfairly suggested he was biased. Bahari has since been released.
Ofcom spokesman Rhys Hurd denied that a decision had been made but agreed that Press TV could be stripped of its U.K. broadcasting license.
"All options are being considered," he said.
Press TV is an arm of the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, which says it's pressing Tehran's case against the "domineering empire of Western media."
Press TV suggested it had nettled British officials with its critical coverage of the tuition protests in London and the rioting that broke out across England in August. It also noted that a 2010 U.S. State Department cable published by WikiLeaks cited a senior British diplomat as saying that the U.K. was "exploring ways to limit the operations of the IRIB's Press TV service."
But the cable went on to note that "U.K. law sets a very high standard for denying licenses to broadcasters" and suggested that any such action was unlikely in the short term.
Iran itself places heavy restrictions on local and foreign journalists — especially since the 2009 elections that secured a second term for President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Protests across the country were violently suppressed.
Opposition websites in Iran are often blocked and some satellite stations, like BBC's Farsi-language channel, are jammed. Journalists and bloggers routinely face arrest or imprisonment.
Press TV: http://www.presstv.ir/
Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting: http://www.irib.ir/