Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Italy: FAO issues apology to banned Iranian journalist

Rome, 4 June (AKI) - The United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization has issued an apology to Adnkronos International deputy director Ahmad Rafat, after he was banned from attending the opening day of the global food summit.
A media statement released by FAO's communications office said that from Wednesday, Rafat would be able to cover the summit at the UN agency’s headquarters in Rome.
“I hope that Ahmad Rafat will accept FAO’s apology, as well as my own personal apology, for this unfortunate incident,” said Nick Parsons, Director of Communications at FAO. “We are extremely satisfied that the issue of Rafat’s access has been resolved.” Before being refused entry on Tuesday, Rafat had been fully accredited as a journalist by FAO to cover the summit and had already entered the agency’s building and attended several events.
He was later denied access to the building by security officials.FAO said the decision to block Rafat's entry had been made by Italian security officials. But the government rejected the suggestion, saying all media accreditation was up to FAO. Later in the day, the office of the Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, said in a statement that accreditation for the three-day event had nothing to do with the Italian government. On Tuesday, Foreign Minister Franco Frattini also reacted strongly to the ban and asked Italy's permanent representative to FAO, Pietro Sebastiani, to ask the organisation for an explanation. The International Federation of Journalists urged the United Nations agencies to stop being "bullied by member states to deny access to journalists" and to stand up for media freedom and ensure access to all agency meetings.Iranian-born Rafat is a highly respected journalist who has covered the Middle East and the Balkans. He reports extensively on Iran.Rafat is also an executive member of the media rights group, Information, Safety & Freedom, who a few days prior had launched an appeal to raise awareness about Iran's repression of civil and human rights.


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