Persian journalists claim they are ‘regularly harassed by Iranian authorities’
BBC BOSSES appealed to the United Nations yesterday over claims that the Iranian authorities are conducting “politically motivated” investigations into more than 150 staff working for the corporation’s Persian television service.
The broadcaster said 152 BBC Persian staff and their families were being subjected to a “sustained campaign of harassment and persecution” by Iranian officials, who were investigating allegations of “conspiracy against national security.”
Employees at the BBC’s Persian service, which began broadcasting to Iran in 2009, and their families have faced threats and intimidation by the Iranian authorities.
In one case, the mother of a journalist was made to face a wall while she was interrogated in the middle of the night by five men in balaclavas, who warned that her son’s life was at risk as there were many fatal car crashes in London.
A six-year old girl was grilled over her sister’s work at the BBC, while the sister of a TV presenter was held in Iran’s notorious Evrin prison for 17 days in a bid to pressure her into resigning. When she refused, the TV presenter was asked to spy for the Iranian government.
BBC director-general Tony Hall said the behaviour was “totally unacceptable” and filed an urgent complaint with David Kaye, UN special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression.
The complaint was also sent to Asma Jahangir, UN special rapporteur on human rights in Iran.
The National Union of Journalists launched an “international campaign against the collective persecution of journalists” yesterday, accusing Tehran of a “crass attempt to intimidate.”
General secretary Michelle Stanistreet called for Iran to stop the persecution and drop the “ludicrous” criminal charges against BBC employees.
“Dozens of family members and friends of BBC Persian service journalists have been interrogated by intelligence agencies, threatened and urged to pressure their relatives to leave their jobs in London or agree to spy on their colleagues.
“In July this year, Tehran’s judicial authorities issued a court order preventing current and former BBC journalists and contributors from conducting financial transactions or selling properties in their home country.
“The union is supporting our members involved and are launching an international campaign aimed to stop the continuing persecution. “Iran should drop the criminal charges and lift the asset ban immediately,” Ms Stanistreet said.