An Iranian jury Sunday found the Tehran bureau chief of the Reuters news agency guilty of “spreading lies” and “propaganda against the regime,” for a video story that erroneously described female ninja students as assassins, Iranian media said.
The news agency lost its Iranian government press accreditation in March over the video published in February with the headline, "Thousands of female Ninjas train as Iran's assassins."
Reuters later corrected the headline to "Three thousand women Ninjas train in Iran” and issued an apology.
"A jury member at a Tehran penal court told Press TV on Sunday that the news agency was found guilty of propagating against the Islamic Republic and disseminating false information to disturb public opinion," Press TV said.
Iranian news media said the lawsuit was filed by "Iranian Women Ninjas."
In April, Mohammad Javad Aghajari, the Culture Ministry’s foreign media department director general, accused Reuters of calling the martial arts students terrorists when in fact they were "university students and housewives" who "engaged in this sport because of their love for the sport," IRNA reported.
Press TV said the final decision would be made by a judge in October and that Reuters could appeal the verdict.
Responding to the jury decision, a Reuters spokesperson said in its story on the development: "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."
According to Reuters, Parisa Hafezi, its Iranian bureau chief and an Iranian national, was charged on several counts including spreading lies and propaganda against the establishment. She was banned from travelling, and her passport was confiscated. However, Hafezi is only responsible for the text stories produced by the bureau, but not the visuals, captions or videos produced by photographers and television journalists.
Eleven Reuters staff members in Tehran were told to hand in their press cards over the incident, Reuters had said earlier.
"We acknowledge this error occurred and regard it as a very serious matter," Reuters editor-in-chief Stephen J. Adler said in March, adding that the company "conducted an internal review and have taken appropriate steps to prevent a recurrence."