In an unprecedented move, the United Nations has formally raised “grave concerns” with Iranian officials over treatment of BBC News staff operating in the region.
The BBC filed a complaint with the UN earlier this year regarding BBC News Persian staffers, which spotlighted online violence against journalists, gendered attacks faced by women and increased financial pressure from an ongoing asset freeze that operates as a “blunt financial sanction.”
The UN’s Iran communication, which was delivered in May but has just been published, said it had “raised grave concerns over the continuation of reported harassment and intimidation of the BBC News Persian staff and their family members, which appears to be aimed at preventing them from continuing their journalistic activities with BBC News Persian.”
Four UN experts examined the case and said Iran was “showing a pattern and practice of employing these measures to hinder journalists from carrying out their work” and requested a formal response from the Iranian government.
That response, which has also been published, claimed BBC journalists were aiming to “overthrow the Islamic Republic” and complained of “hostile coverage that tarnishes the regime and incites riots.”
The UN experts have disputed these claims and requested information about the status of the asset freeze and an explanation of the justification and legal basis for it, as well as a request that Iran provide “information about the legal and factual basis for interrogating the families of journalists working abroad” and how it is compatible with Iran’s international human-rights obligations.
Liliane Landor, Director of the BBC World Service, said: “We are grateful to the United Nations for raising our grave concerns about the treatment of our BBC News Persian journalists. We reject Iran’s attempt to justify its behaviour – the sanctions and harassment against our colleagues and their families must stop.”
The move comes a few weeks after top BBC journalists and those from other UK establishments were barred from reporting in Russia, a worrying development as despotic regimes around the world try and prevent impartial news organizations from coverage.
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