Hundreds of journalists in Iran have called for a politician to be prosecuted after he reportedly punched a reporter in the face in a corridor of the parliament building this week.
Nader Ghazipour, a conservative politician known for his outspoken public statements, punched journalist Ehsan Bodeghi several times in the face during an interview on Sunday, Bodeghi’s employers at the daily Iran newspaper said.
Bodeghi had been seeking to interview Ghazipour about his plans to set up a Turkish-speaking faction within Iran’s parliament.
However, the interview reportedly culminated in Ghazipour hitting Bodeghi several times, as well as seizing his voice recorder and deleting the recordings he had made.
Ghazipour defended himself on Tuesday, telling an open session of parliament that he had been “joking.”
“I have great respect for the media and for journalists,” Ghazipour said.
However, the controversial MP continued, Bodeghi had raised his questions “badly and persistently,” leading to what he described as a misunderstanding.
Reporters Without Borders, an international NGO aiming to protect the rights of media workers, said it was “appalled” by the incident.
Over 500 Iranian journalists have signed a petition calling for Ghazipour to be prosecuted over the alleged assault.
Ghazipour is no stranger to controversy.
In March, a group of female politicians opened a lawsuit him after he was filmed saying that “parliament is not a place for foxes, donkeys or women” during a campaign event.
The footage went viral after being published by journalist Hamed Atayi, who was reportedly beaten in the street by unknown assailants after sharing the video.