Calls bureau chief a 'persona non grata'

Iran has revoked the media accreditation of pan-Arab newscaster Al-Arabiya’s Tehran bureau chief and declared him a “persona non grata.”

Hassan Fahs was told of the decision Tuesday by the Iranian Ministry of Culture and Guidance. It is not clear yet if Fahs, who also works for pan-Arab daily newspaper Al-Hayat, will be forced to leave the country — or whether the bureau will be able to operate without him.

Execs at Al-Arabiya, one of the Middle East’s most popular news channels along with Al-Jazeera, have condemned the decision.

“This is part of a build-up of an orchestrated campaign against us,” an Al-Arabiya exec, who insisted on anonymity, told Daily Variety.

One Iranian politico recently called for Al-Arabiya to be shuttered in Iran and its staff banned from working in the country. That follows other attacks in pro-Iranian media outlets against the satcaster in recent weeks.

The ministry’s decision comes after the channel aired “The Road to Revolution,” a docu about events leading up to the 1979 Iranian revolution led by Ayatollah Khomeini. Iranian authorities have repeatedly accused Al-Arabiya of bias — a charge that execs deny.

Fahs will be the third Al-Arabiya journo to be expelled since the Tehran bureau opened in 2003.

Al-Arabiya, which is owned by Saudi media maven Sheik Waleed al-Ibrahim, appears to have fallen foul of tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia. The two countries have long vied for influence in the region, a situation exacerbated by simmering conflicts across the region between pro-Iranian and pro-Western factions in Lebanon, Iraq and the Palestinian territories.

Move also appears to be part of a crackdown on foreign journos in Iran. In July, AFP’s deputy bureau chief in Tehran, Stuart Williams, was forced to leave after his visa was not renewed. The decision to block Fahs has brought protests from press freedom group Reporters Without Borders, which said the expulsion was “designed to intimidate all foreign journalists in Iran.”

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