IFJ Condemns Harassment of BBC Journalists' Family Members in Iran

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today joined criticism of Iran over its campaign of harassment targeting family members of the BBC Persian service staff in order to exert pressure on them. The BBC has accused Iranian authorities of arresting relatives of its staff working outside the country while others have had their passports confiscated and journalists themselves faced false accusations.

"We are appalled by these measures which hold journalists' relatives hostages for the sole purpose of undermining our colleagues' editorial independence," said Jim Boumelha, IFJ President. "The regime is bent on extending its ruthless control on people outside its reach and does not hesitate to intrude in their family life."

According to the BBC's director general, Mark Thompson, there is a campaign of intimidation against Iranian journalists working outside the country. He cited the case of a sister of a staff member in the Persian service who was recently arrested and briefly detained in solitary confinement on unspecified charges in the notorious Evan prison before being released on bail.

This was the latest in a series of measures taken by Tehran against members of BBC staff of Iranian origin. In recent months, a number of relatives of BBC Persian staff had been detained for short periods of time by the Iranian authorities and urged to get their relatives in London to either stop working for the BBC, or to "co-operate" with Iranian intelligence officials, the BBC head said.

Others have had their passports confiscated to prevent them from leaving the country. Mr. Thompson also revealed that Iranian journalists have been accused in the official media of serious charges, including sexual assaults, drug trafficking and financial crime.

The IFJ warns that these developments signal an intensification of the crackdown on media in Iran which started during the disputed presidential elections of June 2009. The Association of Iranian Journalists (AoIJ), an IFJ associate, says that at least 30 Iranian journalists are in jail, including eight who were arrested last month on allegations of "acting against national security".

The Federation is calling for stronger action against the regime, including referring the government to the Human Rights Council which is starting this year's session in March in Geneva.

"The brutal suppression of press freedom, which itself merits robust condemnation by the UN Human Rights Body, has reached new levels in Iran," added Beth costa, IFJ General Secretary.  "There is now a clear risk of denying individual journalists and their loved ones their basic right to family life and freedom from ill treatment."

For more information, please contact IFJ on + 32 2 235 22 07
The IFJ represents more than 600.000 journalists in 131 countries