Iran BBC reprisals trigger media ouctry

BBC Persian presenter Rana Rahimpour says journalists are unable to visit Iran for family funerals. (Facebook)
Updated 19 March 2019

Iran BBC reprisals trigger media ouctry

  • Iran this week faced a media industry outcry over its alleged systematic targeting of BBC Persian Service
  • Britain’s National Union of Journalists (NUJ) said that it would continue to campaign to stop the harassment of the BBC Persian journalists

LONDON: Iran this week faced a media industry outcry over its alleged systematic targeting of BBC Persian Service journalists including the “sexual defamation” of female staff.
It follows a move by the European Parliament to back a resolution criticizing the treatment of BBC Persian service journalists by Iranian authorities.
Writing in The Guardian, veteran UK media commentator Roy Greenslade said that “too little attention has been paid to an insidious long-run campaign of persecution by the Iranian authorities against the staff of the BBC Persian service.”
“As they stand, the facts are shocking,” said Greenslade. “Unable to get their hands on BBC Persian’s London-based staff, Iran’s police intimidate their relatives inside Iran. They freeze their assets, which has the effect of preventing them buying and selling property. They arrest them arbitrarily, interrogating them for hours at a time and often detaining them for days in prison.”
Britain’s National Union of Journalists (NUJ) said that it would continue to campaign to stop the harassment of the BBC Persian journalists. “We are pleased the European Parliament and the UN Human Rights Council have supported our calls for Iran to stop targeting BBC journalists in London and their families in Iran,” Sarah Kavanagh, NUJ senior campaigns and communications officer, told Arab News.
“We will continue campaigning until the authorities stop the harassment and persecution.”
Press Gazette, the UK media industry trade publication, also reported on the story on Monday and quoted MEP Jude Kirton-Darling who drew attention to smear campaigns aimed at some female Persian Service staff who have had their faces superimposed on pornographic images. “I would particularly like to raise awareness about the sexualized defamation campaigns being waged against brave female journalists at BBC Persian and I would call on the EU to no longer be silent about this attack on European women, European journalists.
“We have a duty and a responsibility to defend free journalism.”
Last week the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, Professor Javaid Rehman, presented his first report to the United Nations Human Rights Council.
He told the Council that he “deplores” the harassment of BBC Persian staff. He also raised concerns about attacks on BBC Persian journalists in Iranian state media, with fake and defamatory news being published to undermine their reputations.
The BBC took the unprecedented step of directly appealing to the UN in 2017, in what was the first time the broadcaster has ever engaged with the body about the treatment of its journalists.
BBC Persian presenter Rana Rahimpour told the council about her own experience and how her father was subjected to a travel ban to prevent him from visiting her after her first child was born.
International counsel for the BBC World Service, Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC and Jennifer Robinson, have filed a further complaint to the UN over the reprisals BBC Persian journalists have faced.
They said, “Reprisals against BBC Persian journalists and their families for engaging with the UN is not just an attack on freedom of expression, but an attack on the integrity of the UN system. Such reprisals must be condemned in the strongest possible terms.”
Simon Spanswick, CEO of Association for International Broadcasting, said his organization “deplores any and all attempts to interfere with the work” of legitimate media companies.
“The case of BBC Persian staff and their families is one of a growing number of cases where broadcasting organizations and those that work for them are being intimidated,” he said.
“The case has been raised by the BBC at the UN through a complaint — the first it has ever made to the UN. The UN Special Rapporteur on Iran has included the case in his report to the UN Human Rights Council. We look forward to seeing the response of the Iranian government on this case which is, in effect, a jurisprudence dragnet.”
Sherif Mansour, the Middle East and North Africa program coordinator at the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, said there was a “wider story” of intimidation of journalists by Tehran, especially dual-national Iranian media workers.
Many Iranian journalists had been “portrayed as tools of foreign intervention and included in conspiracy theories,” Mansour said.

Fake news war: In Libya, battles also rage on social media

Updated 18 April 2019

Fake news war: In Libya, battles also rage on social media

TRIPOLI: On Libya’s front lines, fighters often hold a gun in one hand and a smartphone in the other, using their cameras in the propaganda war.

Since eastern commander Khalifa Haftar launched an offensive to seize the capital Tripoli, most Libyans have watched the fighting on social media.

Facebook has become the main online battleground, where both sides weaponize photos and video footage — both real and fake.

Images of wounded, killed or imprisoned fighters are immediately published by one side or the other as they try to prove their supremacy on the battlefield.

When rockets slammed into residential areas in the south of the capital Wednesday, killing six people, both sides, predictably, blamed each other.

While few Libyans trust the TV channels, they now also sift through images, fake news and propaganda online, from both Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) and forces backing the unity government (GNA).

Last week, GNA spokesman Col. Mohamad Gnounou even accused Haftar’s forces of “infiltrating certain places, taking pictures and then withdrawing” so they could claim online to be in control of a particular site or neighborhood.

This week, an American who had become an unlikely celebrity in Libya took to the internet to deny reports by LNA that he had piloted a Libyan fighter plane as a GNA “foreign mercenary pilot.”

In his own short video post on Twitter, he held up a US newspaper to date the clip and assured viewers that “I am currently here in the US ... I am not in Libya.” Warring factions have used fake content to discredit their enemies or hit their morale.

“It is true that we have a huge wave of misinformation spread through social networks,” said Libyan analyst Emad Badi.

“Each party has invested considerably to influence the media to adopt a narrative that is favorable to them.” Last week, three videos circulated — all purportedly shot at the same time, in the same place on the front line, but with completely different messages.



In two of the films, one side claimed that its rivals had laid down their weapons and surrendered.

A third clip, whose authorship remains a mystery, showed the unlikely scene of fighters halting combat and embracing each other, crying “united Libya.”

One Internet user quipped that “whatever the real version of the facts, a united Libya triumphed for at least a few moments.”

Social media users have sought to fill the vacuum left by mass media, as each Libyan television station has long chosen its side and tends to broadcast videos or photos without verification if they appear to support their stance.

“There’s no point in turning on the TV,” said one young Libyan, Karim, his eyes fixed on his phone, as he sat on the terrace of a seaside cafe in Tripoli.

“Libyan channels are either late or so biased that it’s comical if you’re not on the same side.”

Some Internet users have taken on the role of military experts, pointing to maps and images of specific weapons to support their take on the truth.

Not surprisingly for a country riven by multiple conflicts since the fall of late dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011, Libya also has armies of online trolls who spread hatred and incite violence.

“Anonymity on social networks encourages some people to engage in aggressive and hateful speech and even incitement to crime,” said Mayss Abdel-Fattah, 26, a sociology student at the University of Zawiya.

“These ‘bad’ users of social networks feel that no-one will come to hold them accountable, which is very often the case in Libya.”

Despite the toxic posts that flood social networks, there are also rays of light that cut through the online fog of war.

A group of young Libyans in 2016 launched the “SafePath” group which now has 162,000 members on Facebook and provides a crucial public service: It updates users on which roads to avoid because of fighting.