Iran shuts News Corp office, arrests 5 - agency

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran has closed the Tehran office of a television channel partly owned by News Corp and arrested five employees for “helping the anti-revolutionary movement,” the semi-official Mehr news agency said on Tuesday.

The satellite entertainment channel Farsi1 broadcasts soaps and sitcoms dubbed into Persian. It is operated by Dubai-based Broadcast Middle East, a 50-50 joint venture between News Corp and Afghanistan’s MOBY Group.

Tehran Prosecutor General Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi said the Farsi1 office in central Tehran had dubbed television series into Farsi “with the aim of helping the anti-revolutionary movement,” Mehr news agency said.

“This office was shut down and five people were arrested in this regard. There were advanced machines and equipment in this office and we wonder how this equipment was imported and installed there,” he said.

The Iranian state has a monopoly of broadcasting in Iran.

Dolatabadi did not give further details and did not say when the channel’s office was closed down.

Iran’s hardline rulers often accuse the United States and other Western countries of seeking to overthrow clerical rule through a “soft” or “velvet” revolution with the help of intellectuals, internet websites and satellite channels.

Launched in August 2009, Farsi1 is popular among many Iranians with its range of entertainment shows from the United States, Latin America and Asia.

Iranian authorities were in the past critical of the channel, saying its programs were contradictory to Iran’s Islamic and revolutionary values.

There are a number of other Persian satellite channels broadcasting entertainment programs. Many of these channels operate from the United States and oppose Iran’s clerical establishment.

Iran has shut down a number of publications since its disputed June 2009 presidential election.

Iranian authorities said last month they would close down publications that carry news of the opposition movement.

Editing by Jon Hemming