Staff reporters, Guardian Unlimited, Friday January 4 2008
The Guardian's Tehran correspondent, Robert Tait, has been expelled from Iran without explanation after nearly three years of reporting from the country.
Tait was forced to leave the country after the Iranian authorities declined to renew his visa and residence permit, despite an appeal on his behalf from the Guardian's editor, Alan Rusbridger, to Iran's culture and Islamic guidance ministry, which supervises the activities of all foreign and domestic media. He is now back in the UK, along with his Iranian wife.
The ministry gave no reason for its decision but said the newspaper was free to put forward another journalist as its correspondent in Iran.
Tait, 43, was originally ordered to leave the country last March after officials expressed displeasure over his reporting. He was subsequently allowed to remain after the Guardian successfully appealed for his residence permit to be renewed.
He is the second British journalist to be expelled from Iran in the past six months. Angus McDowall, a correspondent for the Independent, left Iran in July after his documentation was not renewed.
McDowall's expulsion was also unexplained but he had earlier been detained after inadvertently entering a military zone during a driving holiday.
The expulsion comes amid a general crackdown on press freedom in Iran. Several newspapers and websites critical of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's hardline government have been closed over the past year while those remaining have been forced to resort to self-censorship for fear of crossing officially-decreed "red lines". Several Iranian journalists have been detained in recent months for a range of offences, including publishing "lies".
Two previous Guardian correspondents were also expelled from Iran. Geneive Abdo left in 2001 and was later told she would not be allowed to return following an unauthorised interview with Akbar Ganji, a dissident activist then being held in Tehran's Evin prison. Dan De Luce was expelled in 2004 after reporting from the earthquake-damaged city of Bam without official permission.
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