For the first time in its history, the BBC is making an appeal to the United Nations in Geneva to protect the human rights of BBC journalists and their families. This unprecedented move follows years of persecution and harrassment by the Iranian authorities which has escalated over the last 12 months.
BBC Director General, Tony Hall, says: “The BBC is taking the unprecedented step of appealing to the United Nations because our own attempts to persuade the Iranian authorities to end their harassment have been completely ignored. In fact, during the past nine years, the collective punishment of BBC Persian Service journalists and their families has worsened. This is not just about the BBC - we are not the only media organisation to have been harassed or forced to compromise when dealing with Iran. In truth, this story is much wider: it is a story about fundamental human rights. We are now asking the community of nations at the UN to support the BBC and uphold the right to freedom of expression.”
This week BBC journalists will, for the first time ever, address the Human Rights Council session to call upon member states to take action to protect BBC staff and to ensure their ability to report freely.
BBC Persian Service journalists in London and their families in Iran have been systematically targeted since the BBC's satellite television service was launched in 2009. In 2017 the harassment escalated when the Iranian authorities commenced a criminal investigation, alleging BBC Persian Service journalists’ work was a crime against Iran’s national security. This was accompanied by an asset-freezing injunction citing 152 named individuals, comprising mainly of current and former BBC Persian staff, and this injunction prevented journalists and their families from buying or selling their homes and other property in Iran.
Other measures include the arbitrary arrest and detention of family members in Iran, the confiscation of passports and travel bans preventing people leaving Iran, ongoing surveillance of journalists and their families, and the spread of fake and defamatory news targeting individuals especially women journalists.
EBU Director General Noel Curran said: "Journalists must be allowed to report freely on the news without fear of intimidation or persecution. The attacks on journalists in Iran are not only harmful to the individuals and families involved, they also threaten the basic human rights of citizens to receive free and impartial news and information.
"We call on the international community to support our Members and help end the harassment."