BBC complains to UN over Iran 'persecution' of Persian staff
The BBC has lodged an urgent complaint at the United Nations against Iran over its "sustained campaign of harassment and persecution" of BBC Persian staff.
It comes after Iran initiated a criminal investigation into 150 staff, former staff and contributors for "conspiracy against national security".
A subsequent court order also froze the assets of the individuals concerned.
That means they cannot inherit family assets and prevents them and their families from selling property or cars.
BBC director general Tony Hall said Iran's action was "an unprecedented collective punishment of journalists" and against fundamental human rights.
BBC Persian broadcasts news to Iran and the Persian-speaking world from London on TV, radio and online. It reaches an estimated audience of 18 million every week despite being banned in Iran.
- Iran freezes assets of BBC Persian staff
- BBC condemns Iran over 'harassment'
- BBC accuses Iran of intimidation
In a statement issued on Wednesday, the BBC said that since Iran's disputed 2009 presidential election – when the Iranian government accused foreign powers of interference – BBC Persian staff and their parents, siblings and friends had suffered at the hands of the Iranian authorities. Examples it cited include:
- The sister of a journalist was held in Evin prison for 17 days and forced to plead with the journalist via Skype to stop working for the BBC or spy on colleagues
- Many elderly parents of BBC staff have been interrogated, including being questioned late at night
- BBC staff not being able to visit their dying parents for fear of imprisonment or being prevented from leaving Iran
- Reputations of staff attacked in the press and on social media with false and defamatory allegations including claims of sexual impropriety or sexual acts which are illegal in Iran, including those which attract the death penalty.
The BBC complaint to the UN cites what it describes as numerous severe breaches of Iranian obligations under various international treaties to which it is signatory.
"This is an unprecedented collective punishment of journalists who are simply doing their jobs. This is not just a campaign against BBC Persian staff but against fundamental human rights, and the BBC calls on the government of Iran to end this legal action immediately," Lord Hall said.
"The BBC, on behalf of its staff, will use all available legal avenues to challenge this order and we call on the international community to use their own influence in Iran to persuade the authorities that this completely unacceptable treatment must end."