Iran banned National Geographic reporters and sales of the magazine until it corrects an atlas it published using a disputed name for waters off the Islamic Republic’s south coast.
Iran insists on calling the waters the “Persian Gulf.” However, the saltwater body also touches the shores of eastern Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Qatar and Bahrain. Many people in these other states refer to the waters as the “Arabian Gulf.”
Iran’s culture ministry said the atlas published by U.S.-based National Geographic labelled the waters as the “Persian Gulf,” but also included the “Arabian Gulf” name in parentheses on the map.
“As a reaction, we are banning their journalists from entering Iran and the distribution of their publications until they correct this,” the culture ministry’s foreign media director Mohammad Hossein Khoshvaght told Reuters.
The ministry also said the atlas labels three islands in the Gulf claimed by the United Arab Emirates as “occupied by Iran.” Iran insists Abu Musa and Greater and Lesser Tunb are part of its sovereign territory.
“We consider this a clear violation of U.N. documents and antagonistic towards Iran’s national interests,” Khoshvaght said. “National Geographic should immediately correct this big mistake and this strange move.”
The National Geographic’s chief cartographer Allen Carroll defended the use of both names.
“We do, and will continue, to recognize ’Persian Gulf’ as the primary name,” he said on National Geographic’s Web site.
“But we want people searching for “Arabian Gulf” to be able to find what they’re looking for and not to confuse it with the nearby Arabian Sea,” he added.
The culture ministry has previously also objected to the use of the compromise term “The Gulf” used by some foreign news agencies.