AFP Challenged on False News Story Regarding Iran's Nuclear Energy Programme
17 May 2007
Campaigners have today demanded that the Agence France Presse (AFP) retract an incorrect and misleading news item regarding Iran's nuclear programme. Despite the immediate rebuttal of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) against AFP's false report last week alleging Iran's non-cooperation with the IAEA inspectors, the AFP has continued to publish the item on its website and refuses to issue an apology or a correction. The IAEA has confirmed that Iran has never denied access to its nuclear facilities by the inspectors.
The demand made by Campaign Against Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran (CASMII) follows a report on 10 May 2007 by the AFP which was then widely reported by other news outlets, quoting an unnamed source in the IAEA that Iran has denied access to the IAEA inspectors to visit the Iranian nuclear plant at Natanz. The report added "Problems with inspections were confirmed by two other envoys in Vienna."
The next day on Friday 11 May 2007, Iran's Ambassador at the IAEA categorically denied the AFP report. This was corroborated by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) spokesman Marc Vidricaire, who said:
"There is no truth to media reports claiming that the IAEA was not able to get access to Natanz". "We have not been denied access at any time, including in the past few weeks". "Normally we do not comment on such reports but this time we felt we had to clarify the matter. If we had a problem like that we would have to report to the (35-nation IAEA governing) board. That has not happened because this alleged event did not take place."
This is not the first time that the AFP has published false and unsubstantiated reports on Iran's nuclear programme. On 19 March 2007 ahead of the UN Security Council meeting on Iran, it published another report again quoting unnamed diplomats in the IAEA making the same allegations; -which are now proved to be false.
CASMII wrote to the AFP immediately after the categorical denial of the IAEA on 11 May 2007 requesting the retraction of the false report and the publication of IAEA's response. Despite numerous follow-ups, the AFP has not yet responded.
The same pattern of misleading stories often quoting 'unnamed officials' helped soften up the public opinion in the run-up to the illegal invasion of Iraq. Demands are now growing that AFP retract the false allegation, publish IAEA's response and initiate an investigation as to the origin of this inaccurate reporting.
For more information please visit http://www.campaigniran.org