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

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).


Lebanese erupt in anger on social media over foreign minister’s Davos participation

Updated 20 January 2020

Lebanese erupt in anger on social media over foreign minister’s Davos participation

  • The Lebanese reacted to Gebran Bassil's attending the WEF
  • "Today he is turning a blind eye to the devastating violence against civilians we're witnessing,” a student told Arab News

DAVOS: Lebanese have erupted in anger after the country’s caretaker foreign minister was announced as a participant at the World Economic Forum conference in Davos.

Activists have started an online petition called “No to Gebran Bassil at WEF”

“It's a shame that the international community fails to see Gebran Bassil amongst the pool of failed politicians who have lead to the crisis Lebanon witnesses today,” Chermine Haidar, a Lebanese student at SOAS University in London, told Arab News.

“He has for years incited sectarian violence in Lebanon, and today he is turning a blind eye to the devastating violence against civilians we're witnessing,” she added.

Bassil, who has been one of the protesters’ main targets, is set to speak in a panel session called “The Return of Arab Unrest” along with Hussain Sajwani, chairman of Dubai-based developer Damac Properties, Rached Ghannouchi, speaker of the Tunisian assembly and the Dutch trade minister Sigrid Kaag.

 

 

The panel, moderated by CNBC anchor Hadley Gamble, will discuss the rise of popular protests across the Middle East and how they can “be translated into a practical roadmap for positive change,” according to the session description.

“What positive change will Gebran Bassil be talking about?” asked George Azzi on Twitter.

“How to ignore protesters and oppress them? 

“There is a revolution against him in Beirut and he is invited to speak about a ‘practical roadmap to avoid past pitfalls?’ This panel is shameful!” 


Another Lebanese expat, Catherine Warde, also reacted with disbelief at Bassil’s appearance.

“How can someone who is so hated by their own people go and speak at the World Economic Forum when the people that they should be representing are being shot and tear gassed because of orders they gave out?” she said.

The Lebanese protests erupted at the weekend into the worst violence since the demonstrations began in October. Hundreds of people were injured during clashes with riot police and the army.

The online petition, which has reached more than 5,000 signatures, says: “We the People urge the World Economic Forum to rethink Mr Bassil’s invite and listen to the People of Lebanon, listen to their voice, the voice of truth, the voice of justice.”

“He should not be present at a prestigious international forum such as Davos in our name. He should not be given a legitimate platform to cement his power and to speak on behalf of a nation that has rejected him and accuses him of flagrant corruption.”

One Lebanese twitter user, Rula El-Halabi, tweeted a poll that asked Lebanese citizens whether they agree with Bassil representing Lebanon at the forum.

Some 76 percent out of the 17,551 who responded voted “No.”

Another user, business executive Dr. Walid Mahmoud, Said: “Having Gebran Bassil as a speaker at the WEF in Davos does not honor the Lebanese people who have been uprising against the existing political system that led the country to its worst economic crisis ever and which Bassil represents as one of its most condemned figures!” (

A few, however, have defended the caretaker foreign minister on social media.

One user, Hyam Saliba, tweeted: “As a Lebanese citizen, I would like to say that Gebran Bassil is the most honorable politician in Lebanon and he truly represents me.

“He is one of a kind man that can change the world to make it a better place.