Human Rights

BBC Issues “Unprecedented” Appeal for UN to Protect Its Persian Staff in Iran

The BBC will appeal to the United Nations in Geneva to protect its staff and their families in Iran as authorities in the Islamic Republic escalate “years of persecution and harassment,” Agence France-Presse reported Monday.

BBC Director-General, Tony Hall, said in a statement on Monday that journalists will describe in their testimony to the council the threatening atmosphere under which his staff operates in Iran.

According to Hall, “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.”

To the contrary, he explained, “during the past nine years, the collective punishment of BBC Persian Service journalists and their families has worsened.”

Hall added: “We are not the only media organization 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.”

Lawyers for the BBC World Service in October filed an appeal to U.N. Special Rapporteurs David Kaye and Asma Jahangir on behalf of its Persian Service staff. They also filed a complaint over Iran freezing the assets of more than 150 people associated with its Persian service.

In order to increase the pressure on member states to address human rights violations in Iran, including the restriction of freedom of speech, BBC journalists will address the U.N. Human Rights Council session this week.

The broadcaster also plans a series of events in conjunction with the International Federation of Journalists to highlight the plight of its staff and their families in Iran. “We are now asking the community of nations at the U.N. to support the BBC and uphold the right to freedom of expression,” Hall said.

Since its launch in 2009, BBC Persia journalists in London and their families in Iran have been “systematically targeted” by the regime. The harassment escalated last year when Iranian authorities launched a criminal investigation alleging their work was “a crime against Iran’s national security.”

[Photo: BBC News / YouTube]