National Post ‘sorry’ about publishing wrong story

Iran eyes badges for JewsCanada Paper Sorry About Erroneous Story on Iranian Jews and Christians

Associated Press, 26 May 2006

A Canadian newspaper apologized Wednesday for publishing an erroneous story last week claiming that an Iranian law would require Jews and Christians to wear badges identifying them as religious minorities.

The National Post article Friday caused an international uproar. Tehran on Wednesday summoned Canada’s ambassador to its foreign ministry.

Iran’s conservative parliament last week began debating a draft law that would discourage women from wearing Western clothing and encourage citizens to wear Islamic-style garments.

The Post erroneously said the bill included provisions requiring Jews, Christians and other non-Muslims to wear a patch of colored cloth on the front of their garments.

That incorrect description appeared to many as a chilling throwback to Nazi Germany when Jews were forced to wear the yellow star of David.

The United States, which is locked in a standoff with Iran over its nuclear program, criticized the bill. The Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, a Jewish human rights group, had sent a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan asking him to investigate, according to the National Post.

Iranian officials labeled the newspaper account a lie and a copy of the bill, obtained by The Associated Press in Tehran on Saturday, made no mention of requiring special attire for religious minorities.

Iranian state television reported Wednesday that Ambassador Gordon Venner had been summoned to the foreign ministry. The meeting comes on the heels of comments by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who said Friday that while he couldn’t vouch for the accuracy of the National Post report, he believed Iran was capable of such actions.

“Unfortunately, we’ve seen enough already from the Iranian regime to suggest that it is very capable of this kind of action,” Harper said. “It boggles the mind that any regime on the face of the Earth would want to do anything that could remind people of Nazi Germany.”

Douglas Kelly, editor-in-chief of the National Post, ran a lengthy column on page 2 Wednesday explaining that the story was based on a column by Amir Taheri, an Iranian author and journalist, and two expatriate Iranians living in Canada.

“We acknowledge that on this story, we did not exercise sufficient caution and skepticism, and we did not check with enough sources,” Kelly wrote. “We apologize for the mistake and for the consternation it has caused not just National Post readers, but the broader public who read the story.”

Taheri, on his Web site, wrote that the National Post misinterpreted his original column but insisted that his sources in Tehran’s parliament tell him that the concept of badges for religious minorities has been discussed for several years.

Relations between Canada and Iran cooled after the 2003 death of Iranian-Canadian photographer Zahra Kazemi, arrested by Iranian authorities while covering a demonstration. In November, an appeals court has upheld the acquittal of an Iranian intelligence agent and ruled Kazemi’s death was not premeditated.