Iran intimidates BBC’s Persian staff by targeting parents, relatives back home

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Iranian authorities have targeted the relatives of BBC Persian staff using intimidation tactics to stop journalists from publishing reports against the government, John Simpson, head of the channel’s World News Service, said.

To raise awareness about the abuse and intimidation tactics that their journalists often face, the BBC shared a few testimonies from BBC Persian journalists who have had their lives, and the lives of their families, threatened.

Simpson said, “Over the last decade, the Iranian authorities have carried out a concerted campaign of harassment, intimidation, and against our friends and colleagues at BBC Persian and against their families in Iran.”

One unnamed journalist said, “Whenever they don’t like a report or an investigative report or a documentary I do, the easiest way is to go after my family.”

Another unnamed journalist spoke of the intimidation tactics authorities used on her parents. She said, “My elderly parents were interrogated for several hours. They were told that their daughter had to stop working for the BCC. They confiscated their passports so they couldn’t come and visit me.”

“One of my sisters was told, ‘it’s a matter of time, we will catch him, we will bring him back to Iran, and peel his skin alive,’” a BBC Persian journalist said.

A BBC Persian survey found that 152 BBC Persian journalists have been subject to a criminal investigation and asset freeze.

The survey also revealed that at least 44 BBC Persian journalists have had family members threatened in Iran.


World Press Freedom Day

Thousands of journalists around the world also raised awareness on the importance of protecting the press from attacks as they celebrate World Press Freedom Day.

In 1993, the UN General Assembly declared May 3 World Press Freedom Day in response to calls by African journalists in 1991 to protect and honor the rights of journalists to do their job free from harassment and persecution.

According to the United Nations, the annual event is meant “to celebrate the principles of press freedom, to evaluate press freedom around the world, to defend the media from attacks on their independence and to pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the exercise of their profession.”

World Press Freedom Day serves to raise awareness on the violations of press freedom around the world that have led to the censorship and closure of publications and have left many journalists and publishers’ vulnerable to harassment, attacks, arrests, and even murder.

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