Middle East

Iran gives Reuters news agency chop over 'ninjas' story

Member of a group of female Iranian ninjutsu athletes trains in Karaj, west of the capital Tehran, on 15 March 2012 Image copyright AP
Image caption Reuters says it acknowledged its error and quickly changed the offending headline

Iran has banned the Reuters news agency after it described a group of female martial arts practitioners as "assassins" in a report, officials say.

The video showed a group of Iranian women in the city of Karaj training in ninjutsu, a martial art derived from Japan's 15th-century ninja mercenaries.

The initial headline spoke of "Iran's assassins", but was quickly corrected.

Some of the women reportedly threatened to sue Reuters for libel.

Iran's culture ministry said it had indefinitely suspended the news agency's permit to operate in Iran, state news agency Irna reported on Monday.

"The decision was taken following the production of a video clip by this news agency's video department branding some Iranian female athletes who practice ninjutsu as terrorists," ministry official Mohammad Javad Aghajari said.

The 11 members of staff at Reuters' Tehran bureau have been asked to return their media cards.

Reuters said the report initially went with the headline "Thousands of female Ninjas train as Iran's assassins".

It said it changed this to "Three thousand women Ninjas train in Iran" after receiving complaints from the women and the culture ministry.

"We acknowledge this error occurred and regard it as a very serious matter. It was promptly corrected the same day it came to our attention," Reuters editor-in-chief Stephen J Adler said.

Mr Adler added that the agency was in talks with the Iranian authorities aimed at restoring its accreditation.

Many western news organisations are denied access to Iran.

The BBC's James Reynolds, who himself reports from London, says the few journalists who are still allowed to work in the country now find that a single word out of place can cost them their credentials.

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