Letter to Thomson Reuters Board Members and Trustees Re: Persian Gulf

The American Iranian Council submitted this letter to Thomson Reuters Board Members and Trustees.

October 18, 2018

RE:  Persian Gulf

Dear Thomson Reuters Board Members and Trustees:

As many of you may be aware, the stylebook and guidelines for Thomson Reuters stipulates that all articles pertaining to the Persian Gulf region be redacted to use the term “Gulf,” regardless of what the original journalist may have written or what the universally accepted name is for this body of water. As this region is often in the news, this is a persistent and readily apparent change that appears before millions of readers worldwide. There are several issues with this style change which the American Iranian Council would like to raise with the leadership of Thomson Reuters and encourage a change in policy.

First, Thomson Reuters has suggested that the term “Gulf” is used due to a naming dispute over the body of water in question. There is in fact no naming dispute at present, nor is it being challenged in any court, at the United Nations or other relevant international bodies. There are, certainly, several Arab governments who seek to abandon the historic term for political gains but it is incorrect for an internationally celebrated organization such as yours to claim that there is an international dispute. Previous disputes raised at the UN, found in favor of using the historic Persian Gulf name exclusively.

Second, the denuded term of “Gulf” violates the Trust Principles that Thomson Reuters seeks to uphold, including Trust Principle Number 2, which states that:

“The integrity, independence, and freedom from bias of Thomson Reuters shall at all times be fully preserved.”

Certainly, Thomson Reuters has not maintained its independence from Arab governments in seeking to remove “Persian” from the Persian Gulf and there seems to be an implicit bias against Iran and Persians in taking such an action. Since there is officially no dispute, it can be inferred that Thomson Reuters is, by default, giving in to the politically motivated agenda of some Arab governments -- a violation of the organization’s own principle.

Third, the use of a generic term creates many other tangential issues. Simply calling the body of water and region “the Gulf,” confuses readers, making unclear whether the author is referring to other bodies of water in the area. The Daryerstan Gulf, the Gulf of Oman and the Gulf of Aden are all relatively close to the Persian Gulf. This action sets a precedent that geographic names can and would be denuded if a US-friendly government contested a name viewed as favorable to an adversary of the US. It also sets the precedent that any foreign government can have international news and press customized to its political will by contesting geographic names via a strong media partner.

It should be noted that the Associated Press, the United Nations and most international organizations use the Persian Gulf name exclusively. While it is true the US Navy, Google Maps and a few others may use alternate names, those accommodations are generally made for political reasons, or in the case of commercial institutions, financial reasons. Such considerations should not be factors in free and independent media.

We accordingly ask Thomson Reuters to re-evaluate its current stylebook and policies regarding the Persian Gulf name in favor of using the Persian Gulf name exclusively. We recommend that Reuters should also establish a general guideline concerning the established geographic names: in case of disputes, the predominant, historic and UN-recognized name, if one exists, remain in use until such time as a new standard has been accepted by the relevant international bodies. Reuters should adopt policies resisting politicization of geography.

Thank you for your consideration of this matter.




Senator J. Bennett Johnston                                        Professor Hooshang Amirahmadi

Chairman, American Iranian Council President, American Iranian Council