In an open letter Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has called on the leaders of the seven countries that host Persian-language media to protect Iranian journalists against the threats of the Iranian government and explicitly condemn harassment of foreign-based Iranian journalists.
In its open letter January 22, the international press freedom watchdog has addressed the leaders of six EU countries (France, United Kingdom, Germany, Netherlands, Czech Republic and Sweden) and the United States and urged them to intercede directly with the Iranian government to defend the fundamental right to news and information.
Pointing out the close government control on domestic media in Iran, which includes warnings to journalists to refrain from covering major events such as anti-government protests, RFS said the Iranian government has stepped up its threats against Iranian journalists abroad working for the Persian-language media outside Iran.
RSF has named the Persian-language services of the BBC, Radio Farda (Radio Free Europe), Voice of America, DW (Deutsche Welle), RFI (Radio France Internationale), and Radio Zamaneh, and privately-owned Iranian exile media such as the Iran International and Manoto TV channels as well as the Kayhan London and IranWire news websites as those whose journalists have been subjected to more harassment since November 2019 when protests broke out throughout the country.
"The Islamic Republic wants to silence these media outlets, which are the only independent news sources for many Iranians," the letter said and added that the situation has got even worse as the Ministry of Intelligence has openly targeted one of these media outlets, the London-based Iran International Television.
In a statement released on November 30, Iran's Intelligence Ministry said working for the London-based Iran International Television was "proof of collaboration in terrorist actions with the enemies of Iran".
In recent months a number of journalists working for Radio Farda have also been banned from making financial transactions in Iran too.
In a tweet on November 28 the President of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Jamie Fly said the Iranian regime was targeting the journalists working for its Persian-language radio, television, and websites.
Tweet by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty President Jamie Fly.
In August 2016 the Iranian Judiciary banned more than 150 individuals working for the Persian-language BBC television and radio from making any financial transactions inside Iran. The ban prevents these individuals from financial transactions including selling their properties in Iran, even through their attorneys. Iranian journalists who work abroad generally avoid traveling to Iran for fear of being arrested.
At least Iran International and the BBC from among the affected media outlets have taken their cases against the Iranian government to court or to international bodies such as the UN.
On December 9, BBC said in a statement that 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 had heard anonymized testimony from a number of affected journalists who work in London, "which makes clear the gravity of the current situation which they now face".
The RSF letter mentions the case of the US-based Masih Alinejad whose brother was detained on September 26 by the Revolutionary Guard plainclothesmen and another journalist based in France who has asked not be identified who has received threats of being killed "in a horrible fashion" so others will understand and shut up forever".
According to RSF's tally, the letter says, around 200 Iranian journalists living outside Iran (manily Europe and the United States) have received harassing messages in recent months including around 50 who got death threats.
In the past 10 years the Iranian security forces have on numerous occasions arrested individuals on charges of collaborating with foreign-based and diaspora media inside the country. The media outlets refute these claims and say they have no correspondents inside Iran.
Iran is ranked 179th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index.