BBC leads UN Appeal to stop Iran harassing journalists

BBC leads UN Appeal to stop Iran harassing journalists
BBC Persian service presenter Fardad Farahzad gets ready to present the news, at the corporation's London headquarters. The BBC said its journalists will appeal for the first time directly to the UN over what the British broadcaster describes as the "persecution and harassment" of those affiliated with its Persian service by Iran. (AP)
Updated 13 March 2018

BBC leads UN Appeal to stop Iran harassing journalists

BBC leads UN Appeal to stop Iran harassing journalists

LONDON: The BBC has appealed to the UN to stop Iran harassing its Persian-service journalists in London and their families based in Iran, in a move that reflects the rising level of intimidation reporters based outside of the country are facing, according to human rights lawyers and media organizations.
“This is not just about the BBC — we are not the only media organization to have been harassed or forced to compromise when dealing with Iran. In truth, this story is much wider: It is a story about fundamental human rights,” said Tony Hall, BBC director-general, in a statement.
Over the past nine years, 20 families of BBC Persian staff have received death threats while 86 family members have been summoned for questioning by the Iranian intelligence ministry, according to the broadcaster.
BBC Persian staff have spoken about their personal experiences of harassment in a video compiled by the BBC, which includes a journalist who said her parents had their passports confiscated, preventing them from visiting her in the UK, while another said she was not able to return to Iran to see her dying father.
The mother of a reporter living in Iran was warned by the country’s authorities that her son could be killed in a car accident in London if he continued to work for the BBC.
Jennifer Robinson, human rights lawyer at the UK-based Doughty Street Chambers, told Arab News that it was not only BBC journalists affected by Iran’s clampdown.
“Iran has been conducting a coordinated campaign of persecution and harassment against foreign based Iranian journalists — not just the BBC,” she said.
“Similar issues have been reported by Deutsche Welle, but the BBC is the very worst example of it.
“The BBC has an audience of 12 million in Iran because it provides high-quality journalism and there is widespread censorship in the Iranian media.
“By providing impartial and independent coverage of events inside and outside of Iran in Farsi, BBC Persian is perceived as a threat to the Iranian authorities,” she said.
Robinson, alongside fellow barrister, Caoilfhionn Gallagher, represented the BBC World Service when it filed an urgent appeal to the UN Special Rapporteurs David Kaye, and the late Asma Jahangir in October last year. Jahangir died in February.
Jahangir’s report on human rights in Iran was discussed at the 37th session of the Human Rights Council held in Geneva on March 12.
The BBC, along with the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), are organizing a series of events at the UN this week to further highlight the repressive tactics of the Iranian authorities.
“It is the gravest example of an increasing attempt to silence international media reporting on Iran. It is the collective punishment of dozens of journalists and their families,” said Jeremy Dear, deputy general secretary at the IFJ.
“The French government have raised concerns about their media, the German public service broadcaster Deutsche Welle has raised concerns and press freedom groups have documented cases of more than 50 other journalists who have faced similar harassment,” he said.
Robinson added: “As Reporters Without Borders have reported, this is a clear attempt to censor reporting outside of Iran, extending Iran’s persecution across borders into countries where free speech is respected.”
Iran’s harassment of foreign-based journalists escalated last year, when the Iranian authorities began a criminal investigation into BBC journalists, alleging that the work of the Persian Service reporters was a crime against the country’s national security.
Iran froze the assets of 152 named individuals, mainly current and former BBC Persian staff, which prevented both reporters and their families buying or selling property in Iran.
The UK government called for Iran “to drop the criminal charges against BBC Persian staff and cease harassment of all journalists and their families with immediate effect,” in a statement delivered in Geneva on Monday.
Mohammad Javad Larijani, secretary of the High Council for Human Rights of Iran, told the UN council that he objected to the method of collecting and assessing the allegations contained in the Jahangir report on Iran.
“It is the same trend we saw in Iran in past elections, with authorities focusing on targeting dual-nationals, Internet users, and politicized trials against journalists in an effort to limit access to independent information and commentary,” said Sherif Mansour, Middle East and North Africa program coordinator at the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).