UN Human Rights Council hears call to end persecution of BBC Persian journalists

BBC Persian news presenter Negin Shiraghaei today urged the United Nations Human Rights Council to help end the persecution of journalists and their families.

Negin Shiraghaei at the 38th session of the UN Human Rights Council. © JEREMY DEAR

BBC Persian news presenter Negin Shiraghaei today urged the United Nations Human Rights Council to help end the persecution of journalists and their families. 

Journalists working at BBC Persian have been subjected to years of harassment and threats, and family members have been detained and banned from travelling. Women journalists have been subjected to a particularly abusive campaign of harassment. 152 former and current BBC journalists face a criminal investigation and asset freeze in Iran. 

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), its UK affiliate the NUJ, the BBC and international human rights lawyers from Doughty Street Chambers launched a campaign last year to expose and tackle the abuse. 

Campaigners addressed the United Nations today and tomorrow will hold a public event with the support of UN Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression David Kaye, drawing particular attention to the abuse faced by women journalists. 

Speaking today on behalf of the IFJ, Ms Shiraghaei told the 38th Session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva: “I am one of the many women journalists who have been targeted with online bullying, harassment, hacking, phishing and surveillance."

"We have been targeted with fake news, alleging sexual misconduct and indecency that could amount to a crime in Iran, including in state owned media. Our faces have been edited onto pornographic images which have been shared online and, in one instance, shared with the 14 year old son of one female TV presenter. This online harassment of women journalists at the BBC is aimed at undermining our ability to exercise our freedom of speech – and must stop."

"Weaponising information against journalists is Iran’s strategic communication tactic. Fake accounts and blogs appear and disappear like mushrooms. Their aim is to manipulate public opinion about me and my colleagues at BBC Persian and undermine our right to free speech."

"We must stop this practice today or it will become the common practice for tomorrow – and not just in Iran. We ask members of the Council to call upon Iran to cease their persecution and harassment of journalists. Journalism is not a crime" she said.

The United Nations special rapporteur's report on Iran published in March noted the fear the persecution had instilled in Iranian journalists working in London and the threat it posed to media freedom and the right of citizens to access information. 

IFJ Deputy General Secretary Jeremy Dear, who attended the meeting in Geneva said: "We salute the resolve of BBC Persian staff to continue to speak out against the persecution they face and call on Iran to halt this campaign of intimidation and censorship."

 For more information, please contact IFJ on + 32 2 235 22 16

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