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BBC Persian Appeals to UN As Iran Escalates Harassment Of Journalists' Families

U.K. - BBC employees arrive for work at the organisation's New Broadcasting House in central London, 12Nov2012

BBC’s Persian section says harassment directed at its journalists and their relatives who are in Iran has intensified and is appealing to UN bodies. BBC Persian appealed to the UN Special Rapporteurs on Monday to stop Iran’s harassment of journalists’ family members in Iran who have been subjected to various threats and even been put in "degrading prison conditions and interrogation" during and after the November protests.

A BBC statement released on Monday said the Special Rapporteurs on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression, Human Rights in Iran, and Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Execution heard anonymized testimony from a number of the affected journalists who work in London "which makes clear the gravity of the current situation which they now face".

According to the statement elderly relatives of BBC Persian journalists have been subjected to solitary confinement, degrading prison conditions and interrogation, and express threats have been made to journalists’ safety in the UK and elsewhere".

This is the first time BBC Persian journalists have filed a communication with the Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions.

BBC World Service Director Jamie Angus has said that following the civil unrest the state-backed harassment of BBC Persian staff in London and their families in Iran have been deeply disturbing. "Over the last few weeks, family members of BBC staff have been called in for questioning, had their passports confiscated and told that they must ask their relatives to stop working for the BBC or face the consequences. At the same time, the Iranian media has cited BBC Persian television as allegedly encouraging unrest and violence in Iran," Jamie Angus said.

The BBC world service also said while BBC Persian staff have borne the brunt of this harassment over many years, the Iranian authorities have been widening their offensive against journalists from other media outlets reporting on the protests and have imposed an internet shutdown."

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemned Iranian intelligence agency harassment and threats against Iranian journalists based abroad, especially in Britain, and against their families still in Iran in a statement released on November 26.

In its statement RSF also deplored the role played by Hamid Baeidinejad, the Iranian ambassador in London, in relaying these threats. In his tweets Tehran's top diplomat in London has repeatedly called Iranian journalists based abroad "agents and mercenaries of foreign services, paid by the country's enemies and acting against its national interests". The Iranian Embassy in London denied that the ambassador, has ever threatened these media and journalists.

The RSF statement said threats have targeted Iranian journalists working for the BBC, Voice of America, and Radio and privately-owned Iranian exile media such as the Iran International and Manoto TV channels and the Kayhan London news website.

During the protests Iran targeted diaspora media satellite TV channels directly by jamming their signals. On November 23 Iran International Television, a London-based Persian language news channel,lodged a complaint against Iran with OFCOM, the UK's communications regulator, for targeting its signals on Hotbird Satellite by orbital jamming. In its annual press freedom ranking the Paris-based Reporters Without Frontiers said Iran dropped six places to 170th out of 180 countries and territories.