The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) strongly supports the unprecedented appeal made today by the BBC during the 37th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva to protect the human rights of BBC Persian Service journalists and their families.
The urgent appeal was filed by the BBC World Service last October with the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, David Kaye, and the late UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran, Asma Jahangir. It came in response to years of persecution and harassment of BBC Persian Service staff by the Iranian authorities - which escalated in 2017 - because of their work as journalists.
The appeal calls on member states to take action to protect BBC staff and ensure their ability to report freely.
“For many years Iranian journalists have suffered; been forced into hiding, fled into exile, been arrested, jailed and subjected to routine harassment, violence and intimidation,” said IFJ Deputy General Secretary, Jeremy Dear. “Iranians now increasingly turn to the international media to find out what is happening in their own country. Targeting family members in Iran in an attempt to silence journalists working in London must be stopped; the international community must act now.”
BBC Persian Service journalists in London and their families in Iran have been systematically targeted since the BBC's satellite television service was launched in 2009.
The IFJ has been lobbying members of the European Parliament as well as Iranian embassies and government Ministers following the escalation of the harassment last year, when the 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 – which remains in place, according to the report tabled today by Asma Jahangir - effectively prevents journalists and their families from buying or selling their homes and other property in Iran.
Other measures include the arbitrary arrest and detention of family members in Iran, the confiscation of passports and travel bans preventing people leaving Iran, ongoing surveillance of journalists and their families, and the spread of fake and defamatory news targeting individuals, especially women journalists.
Following the BBC’s urgent appeal, the UN Secretary-General’s report for the Human Rights Council on 28 February reported “special procedure mandate holders issued a statement calling upon the Islamic Republic of Iran to cease all legal action against the BBC staff and their families, and to end the use of repressive legislation against independent journalism, whether affiliated to the BBC or not.”
The IFJ and the BBC have organised a series of events in Geneva this week about the threats to BBC Persian Service journalists, including a side event on 15 March.
For more information, please contact IFJ on + 32 2 235 22 16