In a statement released on November 26 on its official website Reporters Without Borders condemned Hamid Baeidinejad, Iran's ambassador in the UK, for his role in relaying the threats of Iranian intelligence organs against Iranian journalists based abroad, especially in Britain, and against their families in Iran.
"Ever since Hamid Baeidinejad, the Iranian foreign ministry’s former director of political affairs and international security, took over as the Islamic Republic’s ambassador in London, he has been threatening these media and journalists on Twitter," the statement said.
Protected by his diplomatic immunity, the ambassador who only tweets these threats in Farsi reiterates the accusations of the Iranian intelligence services and uses the same rhetoric as they do, accusing journalists of being the “agents and mercenaries of foreign services, paid by the country’s enemies and acting against the national interest," the statement said.
In a recent tweet Baeidinejad called the BBC Persian, VOA, Manoto TV and Iran International Television enemy channels that are subsidized by foreign governments and the exiled Iranian royal family. "They have put Iran in danger by trying to portray the rioters, who are murderers and arsonists, as political dissidents," the Iranian ambassador's tweet said.”
“Threatening citizens, in particular, a country’s journalists and media outlets, are not part of an ambassador’s attributions,” Reporters Without Borders said in its statement and added that the British authorities should monitor these activities which pose a threat to press freedom and a danger to journalists.
In another tweet on November 22 Baeidinejad also said that the Iranian government is planning to lodge a complaint against BBC Persian, Iran International Television and Manoto TV with OFCOM, Britain's communications regulator.
According to Reporters Without Borders, during the recent protests in Iran the families of several journalists based abroad were summoned and threatened by intelligence ministry agents who demanded that they should ask their children to stop working for foreign-based TV channels to avoid repercussions.
Journalists working for media outlets such as Radio Farda, BBC Persian, Voice of America (VOA), Iran International Television, Manoto Television and the London-based Kayhan newspaper have been intimidated by Iranian intelligence and security bodies, the press freedom watchdog also known by its original name Reporter Sans Frontières (RSF) said in its statement.
According to the Paris-based organization Iran is ranked 170th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index.
Iranian journalists who work for foreign-based media usually avoid speaking about the intimidation of their families publicly. However, Farnaz Ghazizadeh and her sister Sanaz Ghazizadeh who work for BBC Persian and Iran International respectively, have in separate tweets in recent days said their 73-year-old father has been called in by security bodies. "The Islamic Republic continues to intimidate and censor journalists through putting pressure on their families," Farnaz Ghazizadeh tweeted on November 23. "Our families have been taken hostage," she said in her tweet.
Two days after protests began against the threefold increase in the price of gasoline and its rationing Iran shut down the Internet nearly completely to prevent news and footage of the protests to reach the foreign-based media.
Access to home landlines was partially resumed when protests abated but the Iranian regime has not stopped intimidating journalists living abroad. On Tuesday the Iranian Judiciary officially announced that "judiciary and legal restraints" will be adopted against those working for the London-based Iran International Television.
In 2017 the Judiciary put the names of more than 150 Iranian journalists working for BBC's Persian service on the list of individuals banned from making any financial transactions in Iran. The decision was never publicly announced at the time but now in an unprecedented move Mizan Online, the official news website of the Judiciary, announced on November 26 that a number of "key and influential" staff of the Iran International TV are banned from making financial transactions in Iran (directly or through their attorneys).
Iran International TV, a 24-hour news channel based in London, which started broadcasting in April 2017, has announced that Iran is jamming its signals on Hotbird satellite by directly targeting the satellite (uplink or orbital jamming). On November 23 Iran International announced that it will lodge a complaint against Iran with OFCOM.