Iranian authorities email BBC Persian staff in London after putting their relatives in prison.

Posted: 06 Feb 2012   Print   Send a link
RFE/RL, Persian Letters blog, 2 Feb 2012, Golnaz Esfandiari: "Security officials with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) have used the Internet to interrogate an employee of the London-based BBC Persian service, according to a February 2 report on the opposition website 'IranGreenVoice.' The report says the sister of a BBC reporter was detained and put in Tehran's Evin prison, where the IRGC is thought to exert considerable control. IRGC officials then contacted the reporter in London using e-mail information obtained from her detained sister. They told the BBC staffer that if she talked to them, her sister would be released. ... Two sources familiar with the situation have confirmed the report to RFE/RL. Sadeq Saba, the director of the BBC’s Persian-language television service, told RFE/RL that a relative of a BBC Persian staff member had been detained in Tehran in an attempt by authorities to put pressure on the London-based BBC employee. He said he could not discuss any more details because of security issues, but indicated that it wasn't an isolated incident."

International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, 2 Feb 2012: Iranian "[i]nterrogators have been particularly focused on the BBC, pressuring some of these detainees to say that they have cooperated with and provided information to the BBC, a source close to their families told the Campaign."

BBC, The Editors blog, 3 Feb 2012, Mark Thompson, BBC director general: "It is just the latest in a campaign of bullying and harrassment by the Iranian authorities, putting pressure on the BBC for the impartial and balanced coverage of events in Iran and the wider region. It follows the repeated jamming of international TV stations such as BBC Persian TV, preventing the Iranian people from accessing a vital source of free information. In recent months a number of relatives of members of BBC Persian staff have been detained for short periods of time by the Iranian authorities and urged to get their relatives in London to either stop working for the BBC, or to 'co-operate' with Iranian intelligence officials. In other instances, passports of family members have been confiscated, preventing them from leaving Iran. This has left many BBC Persian staff too afraid to return to the country, even to visit sick or elderly relatives." See also BBC News, 3 Feb 2012. And BBC's The Andrew Marr Show, 5 Feb 2012, video interview.

The Guardian, 3 Feb 2012, Ian Black and Saeed Kamali Dehghan: "Tensions worsened in recent weeks after the closure of Press TV, the English-language Iranian state broadcaster, in London. The UK regulator, Ofcom, revoked its licence for breaching the Communications Act. BBC Persian staff say they believe Tehran wants to stop the channel covering the elections on 2 March. ... Anonymous callers or others using names such as the Cyber Army of Allah have accused BBC Persian staff of being drug dealers, converting to Bahaism or Christianity – potentially a capital offence in Iran as it is considered to be apostasy – or taking bribes."

Committee to Protect Journalists, 3 Feb 2012: "The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the detention and harassment in Iran of relatives of BBC Persian service staff who work outside the country, which is part of a sustained campaign to intimidate journalists into not reporting critically on Tehran's activities."

Tehran Times, 6 Feb 2012: "An informed source has confirmed reports saying that Iran has arrested a number of people, who had been working secretly for the Persian language service of the BBC, the Mehr News Agency reported on Monday. According to the informed source, a number of deceived people, who were tasked with collecting news and information in Iran for the BBC, have been arrested by security forces. The source said these people received huge amount of money from the company."