Journalists in Iran are used to reporting on human rights abuses against citizens, but now they are covering their own plight.

Last week, the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) released a statement condemning harassment and intimidation faced by Persian-language news outlets, including the BBC.

The broadcaster reported that its journalists have faced death threats, criminal investigations, frozen assets and public defamation.

It added that journalists’ relatives have been held in “degrading conditions” and pressured to try to make their family members leave the BBC.

Iran has come under intense scrutiny for its treatment of journalists and other human rights abuses following widespread anti-government protests starting in November.

The UN’s statement — issued by special rapporteurs Agnes Callamard, Javaid Rehman, David Kaye and Michel Forst — referred to the case of a BBC Persian TV presenter facing death threats and harassment, reportedly at the hands of the Iranian authorities.

Rana Rahimpour spoke to the UN’s Human Rights Council on March 9, where she addressed a letter she had received threatening her with assassination within a month.

It went on to say that Rahimpour would be the first BBC Persian journalist to be killed, and that many of her colleagues would suffer the same fate soon after.

In their statement, the rapporteurs said: “These allegations are extremely concerning and if confirmed, would indicate that the Iranian authorities are prepared to use force extraterritorially, in violation of international law.

“Harassment, surveillance, death threats against journalists, within and outside domestic boundaries violate international human rights law, including the right to physical integrity, the right to life and the right to freedom of expression.”

They added: “When these acts are conducted extraterritorially, as with BBC Persian Services, these acts violate international law regulating the use of force in times of peace. These ultimately constitute serious threats to global security and thus demand strong reactions on the part of the governments of the countries where BBC Persian Service journalists reside.”

Tehran’s draconian approach to foreign journalists and their agencies did not spring out of the protest movement, with The Economist’s Middle East correspondent Nicholas Pelham detained for seven weeks from July 2019.

BBC Director General Tony Hall appealed to the new secretary of Iran’s High Council for Human Rights, Ali Bagheri Kani, saying he hoped it could “open a new chapter in relations between the Iranian authorities and the BBC.”

A Western journalist who has worked extensively in Iran told Arab News on condition of anonymity: “BBC Persian has a special place in the Iranian media diet. People watch it obsessively, and even government officials watch it. It’s rare, quality news. It’s run to a large extent by people who’ve lived in Iran recently, so it’s not as alienated from the realities of Iran as other channels based in London or Los Angeles.”

He said: “These are professional journalists, many of whom are known to the political class. Because it’s so closely watched and run by people who know the culture and inflections of Iran, it really threatens the regime. The regime does this practice of trying to shape the tone of coverage by harassing the relatives of BBC Persian relatives.”

He added: “They (the regime) really think they can shape coverage by threatening individual correspondents again and again. It’s a terrible situation, and it adds to the pressures on journalists trying to cover Iran that they (Tehran) respond to coverage they don’t like by threatening people’s families.”

Iran has yet to respond to the allegations.

Source » arabnews