Two United Nations human rights specialists have called on Iran to stop intimidating BBC journalists after the British broadcaster complained to the UN about Tehran launching a criminal investigation of its Persian staff.
"The Iranian authorities appear to regard any affiliation with the BBC as a crime," David Kaye, special rapporteur on freedom of expression, and Asma Jahangir, special rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iran, said in a joint statement on October 27.
“We are concerned at recent reports that the action has now escalated to direct targeting of family members of BBC Persian staff. The measures are clearly aimed at targeting the BBC and at preventing journalists from continuing their legitimate work with BBC Persian,” the UN officials said.
The BBC's Persian-language service was barred from operating in Iran after Tehran's disputed 2009 presidential election.
In August, a Tehran court issued an injunction banning 152 staff members, former employees, and contributors from carrying out financial transactions in Iran.
The BBC said the injunction was linked to what it said was an unjustified criminal investigation into an alleged conspiracy to commit crimes against national security in Iran. It said the investigation amounted to "persecution" of its employees.
"We urge the Iranian authorities to cease all legal action against BBC Persian staff and their families, and to cease the use of repressive legislation against independent journalism, whether affiliated to BBC or not," the UN rapporteurs said.
"In a country with severe limitations on media independence, these measures also constitute an attack on the public's right to freedom of expression," they said.
BBC Persian, launched by the BBC World Service in 2009, is aimed at Persian speakers in Afghanistan, Iran, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan. It is funded by the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office, but remains editorially independent.