Over 500 journalists in Iran have signed a petition calling for the prosecution of Iranian politician Nader Ghazipour after he reportedly struck a parliamentary reporter several times in a corridor of the parliament building in Tehran on Monday.

According to reports, Ghazipour, a conservative MP from Urmia, the capital of Iran’s West Azerbaijan Province, hit Ehsan Bodeghi of the daily Iran newspaper in the face during an interview in which the journalist brought up Ghazipour’s plans to create a Turkish-speaking faction in Iran’s parliament.

Ghazipour allegedly punched Bodeghi several times, seized the journalist’s voice recorder and erased the recordings he had made.

On Tuesday, Ghazipour defended himself before an open parliamentary session, claiming he had been “joking” and that he had “great respect for the media and for journalists”.

Ghazipour reportedly also said that Bodeghi had raised his questions “badly” and he accused the journalist of being against the Islamic Republic and its system of jurisprudence, and of insulting Iran’s Turkish-speaking population.

International Press Institute (IPI) Director of Advocacy and Communications Steven M. Ellis condemned the assault on Bodeghi.

“Iranian authorities should respect the petition signed by over 500 of the country’s journalists and immediately and thoroughly investigate this violent attack on a journalist who was attempting to carry out his profession and convey information to the public,” he said.

Ghazipour has been known for his outspoken comments in the past. In March, female MPs filed a lawsuit against him after he was caught on film saying that Parliament was no place for “donkeys or women” during a February election campaign event.

His comments went viral on social media after being posted by journalist Hamed Atayi, who was subsequently beaten in the street by unknown attackers in front of his wife and child.