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BBC Appeals To UN To Protect Its Journalists In Iran

The BBC headquarters in central London (file photo).
The BBC headquarters in central London (file photo).

The BBC says it is appealing to the United Nations to protect the human rights of its journalists and their families amid an escalation of persecution and harassment by Iranian authorities.

The British broadcaster said in a statement on March 12 that it filed an “urgent appeal” to UN Special Rapporteurs David Kaye and Asma Jahangir on behalf of BBC Persian staff in October 2017.

It claimed that in 2017, the harassment escalated when Iranian authorities commenced a criminal investigation, alleging BBC Persian Service journalists’ work was a crime against Iran’s national security.

This was accompanied by an asset-freezing injunction citing 152 named individuals, comprising mainly of current and former BBC Persian staff. The injunction prevented journalists and their families from buying or selling their homes and other property in Iran.

“The BBC is taking the unprecedented step of appealing to the United Nations because our own attempts to persuade the Iranian authorities to end their harassment have been completely ignored,” BBC Director General Tony Hall said in a statement on March 12.

“In fact, during the past nine years, the collective punishment of BBC Persian Service journalists and their families has worsened.”

In the coming days, BBC journalists will address the Human Rights Council session to call upon member states to take action to protect BBC staff and “to ensure their ability to report freely,” it said.

“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,” Hall said.

“In truth, this story is much wider: it is a story about fundamental human rights. We are now asking the community of nations at the UN to support the BBC and uphold the right to freedom of expression,” he added.

Jeremy Dear, deputy general-secretary of the International Federation of Journalists, noted in the statement that Iranian journalists have been forced into hiding, fled into exile, been arrested, jailed, and subjected to routine harassment, violence, and intimidation for many years.

This is forcing Iranians to increasingly turn to the international media to find out what is happening in their own country, he said.

“Targeting family members in Iran in an attempt to silence journalists working in London must be stopped; the international community must act now,” the statement quoted Dear as saying.

BBC launched its Persian Service, which broadcasts from London, in 2009.