UN human rights experts demand Iran to stop harassment of BBC Persian staff


When Iranian journalists covered the anti-government protest against a fuel hike increase in November last year, harassment against members of the media has intensified and right experts are putting the blame on the Iranian government.

In a strongly worded statement issued on Wednesday, UN human rights experts have demanded that Iran cease harassing and intimidating journalist from BBC Persia and other Persian-language news outlets.

UN special rapporteurs Agnes Callamard, Javaid Rehman, David Kaye and Michel Forst highlighted the case of a BBC Persian TV presenter who has been the subject of death threats, allegedly by Iranian authorities.

Members of the media have received death threats, faced criminal investigations, have their assets frozen, their names defamed in their community, while some have relatives held in degrading conditions and ordered to tell family members to leave the BBC.

Rana Rahimpour told the UN Human Rights Council on March 09 that she had received a written message saying that she, her children, her husband and her elderly parents would be assassinated within a month.

The message also said that Ms Rahimpour would be the first employee of the BBC to be killed, and that, after her assassination, it would be the turn of other BBC Persian employees.

“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,” the special rapporteurs said.

“Harassment, surveillance, death threats against journalists, within and outside domestic boundaries violates 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.”

The special rapporteurs said the reactions included “implementing safeguards to protect the integrity of journalists, their families and their profession”.

The November unrest prompted a bloody crackdown by the security forces. Amnesty International said more than 300 people were shot dead, while a Reuters news agency report put the death toll at 1,500.

Iranian authorities dismissed those figures, but acknowledged killing some “rioters”. (Source: BBC)