Iranian Authorities threaten and arrest BBC Persian staff
Director General of the BBC, Mark Thompson, says he is speaking out to try and embarrass Tehran, headquarters of the Iranian authority, in a bid to end what he has described as a campaign of intimidation against Iranian staff working outside Iran.
Talking to BBC TV, Thompson said: ”This is a growing pattern. It’s systematic and a campaign. What we have decided to do is to be more public than we have been before in calling for the Iranian authorities to desist from this, to ask for other governments to try and put as much pressure as they can and to hope that the embarrassment of this will get those who are responsible for these actions to think again.”
Speaking later on his blog, he commented : “In recent months, we have witnessed increased levels of intimidation alongside disturbing new tactics. This includes an attempt to put pressure on those who work for BBC Persian outside Iran, by targeting family members who still live inside the country.”
Iranian authorities failed to comment.
BBC Persian staff provide Farsi-language TV, radio and online services. Islamic government views the majority of foreign media with suspicion and, as a result, very few Western journalists are permitted to work in Iran. BBC TV services are only readily available to owners of illegal satellite receivers as the station is often jammed.
In September of last year, several people were arrested for supplying the BBC with information and accused of trying to portray the Islamic Republic in a negative light.
In his statement, Thompson said that matters of harassment were getting much worse, and used the case of a London-based BBC journalist who had been arrested, threatened and intimidated in Tehran without specific charge, as an example. ”She was quite clear this was absolutely associated with the fact that her sister was working for the Persian service in London,” he said.
It is Thompson’s belief that such appalling measures are being taken in order to force staff at the BBC to either quit or become informants for the Iranian intelligence service.
Although repeated attempts to prevent access to the BBC by Tehran, Thompson believes that Iranians are very ingenious at finding ways of reaching the service, commenting: “We know from the extraordinary feedback we get (that) it’s watched and relied upon by many, many millions of people inside Iran.”
Iran is led by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.