Source: Westminster Committee on Iran
A complaint was issued today to the Press Complaints Commission concerning an article published in the Daily Telegraph on 12 September which claimed that enriched uranium has disappeared from Iran's nuclear facility in Isfahan. Quoting an unnamed nuclear official the article, entitled 'Iran renews nuclear weapons development', alleged that nuclear material equivalent to that of six atomic bombs have disappeared from Isfahan and are believed to have been relocated to covert installations spotted by American spy satellites.
However the report of International Atomic Energy Agency published on 15th September states that there is no missing nuclear material and that "all nuclear material at the Uranium Conversion Facility in Isfahan remains under Agency containment and surveillance". Responding to the Telegraph article, IAEA's media head, Melissa Fleming, said that the allegations are "fictious" and pointed out that "uranium is not enriched at Isfahan as the Telegraph story states but at the fuel enrichment plant in Natanz."
The complaint issued today from the Westminster Committee on Iran, raises wider issues of media impartiality when reporting on Iran and raises concerns about the use of unnamed sources and sensationalist headlines. It also points out that the co-author of the piece, Con Coughlin, is none other than the journalist who, with the help of unnamed intelligence sources revealed link between the 9/11 hijacker, Mohammed Ata, and Iraqi intelligence which was latter proved to be inaccurate. On 24 January 2007, relying on an unnamed "European defence official" Coughlin alleged that North Korea is helping Iran prepare a nuclear weapons test. In December the Telegraph ran a headline article, also by Coughlin, claiming that Iran was "grooming Bin Laden's successor". Both stories were questioned by Middle East and military experts, and neither has since been substantiated. Jeremy Bowen, the BBC's Middle East correspondent described the Bin Laden claims as "wholly implausible" and pointed out that Al Quaeda, a Sunni organisation would not be supported by the Shia administration in Iran.
A spokesman for the Westminster Committee on Iran said today:
"The challenge by the IAEA regarding the accuracy of this article needs to be examined. Whilst we recognise the quoting of unnamed sources as an essential aspect of news reporting, we ask the Press Complaints Commission to assess whether there are any grounds to find that this practice has been misused. Whilst we respect the need to keep sources confidential, the media must recognise that following their collective failure to adequately examine the case for war against Iraq, the onus is on them to not to ensure impartial and accurate reporting on Iran. Where stories might impact on foreign policy there should be some mechanism for journalists to demonstrate to the PCC, in strict confidence, the reliability of their sources."
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