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BBC news chief calls for pressure on Iran after threats to journalists’ families

October 5th, 2011 | No Comments | Posted by in Press freedom and ethics

The director of BBC Global News, Peter Horrocks, has called on the government to “take all necessary means” to deter the Iranian government from attempts to “undermine free media” in Iran.

Writing on the BBC Editors’ blog, Horrocks says that the families of UK-based Iranian journalists working for the BBC have been harassed, arrested and threatened in Iran in order to encourage their relatives to stop working for the corporation.

The article states:

Iranian police and officials have been arresting, questioning and intimidating the relatives of BBC staff. We believe that the relatives and friends of around 10 BBC staff have been treated this way.

Last month a group of filmakers were arrested in Iran. Contrary to reports on state TV in Iran, they where not members of staff,  but the BBC Persian channel had bought the rights to their films and they are therefore “paying the price for an indirect connection to the BBC”, according to Horrocks’ post.

These actions and threats against the BBC have been accompanied by a dramatic increase in anti-BBC rhetoric. Iranian officials have claimed that BBC staff are employees of MI6, that named staff have been involved in crimes, including sexual crimes, and that BBC Persian is inciting designated terror groups to attack Iran.

Whilst these claims are clearly absurd, the intensity of language magnifies the fears of BBC staff for their family and friends back in Iran. Given the vulnerability of those family members we have thought hard about drawing attention to this harassment. But this public statement has the full support of all staff whose families have been intimidated.

In the statement Horrocks calls on the government for assistance.

The BBC calls on the Iranian government to repudiate the actions of its officials. And we request the British and other governments take all necessary means to deter the Iranian government from all these attempts to undermine free media.

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Journalisted Weekly: Syrian refugees, Grand Prix, & Southern Cross

June 15th, 2011 | No Comments | Posted by in Journalism, Online Journalism

Journalisted is an independent, not-for-profit website built to make it easier for you, the public, to find out more about journalists and what they write about.

It is run by the Media Standards Trust, a registered charity set up to foster high standards in news on behalf of the public, and funded by donations from charitable foundations.

Each week Journalisted produces a summary of the most covered news stories, most active journalists and those topics falling off the news agenda, using its database of UK journalists and news sources.

for the week ending Sunday 12 June

  • Syrian crackdown and Southern Cross crisis gripped headlines
  • Grand Prix news drove the back pages
  • Vietnam-China tensions and world’s largest refugee camp, covered little

Covered lots

  • Grand Prix, with Jenson Button winning the Canadian race, and the Bahrain race postponed due to political unrest, 273 articles
  • Troubled care home provider Southern Cross, denied government bailout, cutting 3,000 jobs, and planning to hive off over 130 homes, 154 articles
  • Syrian refugees fleeing the town of Jisr al-Shughour along Turkey’s border, with 120 of the 189 dead alleged to be soldiers killed for refusing orders, 119 articles

Covered little

Political ups and downs (top ten by number of articles)

Celebrity vs serious

Arab spring

Who wrote a lot about…’Ed Miliband’

Nicholas Watt – 8 articles (The Guardian), Andrew Grice – 6 articles (The Independent), James Kirkup – 6 articles (The Telegraph), Allegra Stratton – 4 articles (The Guardian), Robert Winnett – 4 articles (The Telegraph)

Long form journalism

More from the Media Standards Trust

Visit the Media Standards Trust’s new site Churnalism.com – a public service for distinguishing journalism from churnalism

Churnalism.com ‘explore’ page is available for browsing press release sources alongside news outlets

The Media Standards Trust’s unofficial database of PCC complaints is available for browsing at www.complaints.pccwatch.co.uk

For the latest instalment of Tobias Grubbe, journalisted’s 18th century jobbing journalist, go to journalisted.com/tobias-grubbe

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CPJ: Call for freedom for detained journalists after releases from Libya and Iran

The Committee to Protect Journalists said the latest release of foreign journalists being detained in Iran and Libya “is a very positive development”, but repeated its call for the release of others.

Yesterday it was confirmed that Al Jazeera journalist Dorothy Parvaz was released after being detained in Syria and then deported to Iran, while four journalists detained in Libya last month, including a British freelancer, were also released this week. Details of the whereabouts of a fifth journalist reported to have been detained in Libya at the same time, UK-based photographer Anton Hammerl, remain unknown.

“We are relieved that these journalists are free. It is now time for the Iranian and Libyan authorities to review the cases of dozens of journalists who remain imprisoned mainly for attempting to report on historic developments in the Middle East and North Africa,” said CPJ executive director Joel Simon.

According to the CPJ Iran, together with China, is the world’s top jailer of journalists with at least 34 in prison.

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Al Jazeera calls for answers on whereabouts of journalist Dorothy Parvaz

Questions about the whereabouts of Al Jazeera English journalist Dorothy Parvaz remain unanswered this week, after going missing upon her arrival in Syria in April. Earlier this month Journalism.co.uk reported that Al Jazeera claimed to have been given information that Parvaz had been deported to Iran.

But on Saturday Al Jazeera reported that Iran’s foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi said he had no information about her whereabouts.

Asked on Saturday whether Syria had handed over the journalist, Salehi said: “I have no information.” Salehi, speaking to Al Jazeera, had previously urged Syria to investigate Parvaz’s case.

In a statement Al Jazeera said it is continuing to call for information about the journalist’s whereabouts, access to her, and for her immediate release.

Though Ali Akbar Salehi, Iran’s Foreign Minister, has said he has no information about her whereabouts, Al Jazeera has requested information from a number of ministries in Tehran in order to secure Dorothy’s release.

Yesterday, according to reports today such as this article by the Financial Times, Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast told reporters in a press conference that finding information on the “condition” of Parvaz is “important” for the country, but “stopped short of admitting that Ms Parvaz was in Iran”.

Mr Mehmanparast said that Ms Parvaz had attempted to enter Syria on “an expired Iranian visa” and “without a journalist visa” to report “clandestinely” to cover protests on behalf the Qatar-based broadcaster.

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Al Jazeera English: Two arrested in Iran after inteviewing stoning woman’s son

October 12th, 2010 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Press freedom and ethics

Al Jazeera English reports on threats to foreign press freedom in Iran: two suspected German nationals have been arrested after entering on tourist visas and allegedly interviewing the son of a woman sentenced to execution by stoning; meanwhile an El Pais reporter has had her press accreditation denied.

Full story on Al Jazeera English at this link…

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#WEFHamburg: WAN-IFRA calls on Iran to improve press freedom standards

October 6th, 2010 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Awards, Events, Press freedom and ethics

The World Association of Newspapers and IFRA (WAN-IFRA) used the opening ceremony of the Word Editors Forum (WEF) in Hamburg to call upon Iranian authorities to adhere to international standards of press freedom.

Presenting the annual Golden Pen of Freedom Award to Iranian journalist Ahmad Zeid-Abadi, Xavier Vidal-Folch, president of WEF, said Iranian journalists are “essentially trapped in a prison within a prison. A hellish place, where, in Ahmad Zeid-Abadi’s own words, ‘the desperation they create in prison is so bad you think it’s the end of the world’.

“Though we honour Mr Zeid-Abadi here today, it is also important to remember the other jailed journalists, the ones who don’t win awards but nevertheless suffer under despotic regimes, We should never forget them and we in the international newspaper community should do our utmost to win their release.”

Zeid-Abadi, who has worked for a range of daily and weekly newspapers in the country, is currently in prison in Iran. He was jailed, not for the first time in June 2009, after calling for Iranians to boycott the country’s election. He was sentenced to six years imprisonment and has previously been jailed and banned from practising journalism, because of his work.

According to WEF, 22 Iranian journalists are currently in prison in the country, accounting for around a fifth of all journalists imprisoned worldwide.

Accepting the award on his behalf, fellow Iranian journalist Akbar Ganji made an emotional speech in which he said treatment in prison had driven Zeid-Abadi to the “edge of suicide”. Ganji, who has himself spent time in jail because of his work as a journalist, said the family members of press freedom fighters and activists are often overlooked.

I have no doubt that if Ahmad Zeid-Abadi was here with us, he would have shared the honor of this prestigious award with other political prisoners.

One must interpret these awards as a kind of ethical and moral endorsement of democratic activists who are committed to liberty and human rights.

Today members of the world community of journalists have selected Ahmad Zeid-Abadi as the courageous journalist of 2010 fighting for democracy, and have honored him with the Golden Pen Award. This is a judicious and fair choice worthy of Ahmad Zeid-Abadi. He uses the might of his pen not just to tell the truth and expose political corruption.

In addition he also tries responsibly to use his pen and his ideas to make the world more ethical, reduce people’s pain and suffering. Without a doubt this pen will bring its responsibilities to fruition, for what that pen writes gushes forth from the soul of the person holding that pen and is the bright and shining mirror of his noble heart and his humane ideas.

Last month, Iranian blogger Hossein Derakhshan, who has dual citizenship in Iran and Canada, was jailed for 19 years after being convicted of “collaborating with hostile governments, committing blasphemy and propaganda against the Islamic Republic, and managing an obscene website”, according to an Al Jazeera report.

Read Xavier Vidal-Folch’s speech in full at this link…

Read Akbar Ganji’s speech in full at this link…

More from Journalism.co.uk:

Half the world’s jailed journalists were working online, says CPJ

Human rights lawyer arrested in Iran

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Iranian blogger jailed for 19 years

An Iranian journalist and blogger has been sentenced to almost 20 years in prison and a five-year ban on working in politics or journalism upon his release, after being accused of managing an “obscene website” by Iranian authorities.

Hossein Derakhshan, who has dual citizenship in Iran and Canada and reportedly previously studied in London, was convicted yesterday of “collaborating with hostile governments, committing blasphemy and propaganda against the Islamic Republic, and managing an obscene website”, according to a report by Al Jazeera.

Reporting on the ruling, press freedom group Reporters Without Borders said the sentence was the longest to have ever been made against a blogger in the country.

He is the victim of political rivalry within the government and the case against him was fabricated. We urge President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to intercede personally in order to obtain his release without delay.

Derakhshan defended the Islamic Revolution’s principles, supported Ahmadinejad’s policies and returned to Iran from Canada after being assured by people close to the president that he would not be arrested. Canada and the rest of the international community must press for this harsh sentence to be quashed and for Derakhshan to be freed at once.

Derakhshan can appeal the decision, according to reports. A petition has been launched calling for his release.

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Iranian journalist suing Nokia over imprisonment

An Iranian journalist who is suing Nokia claims the phone company’s surveillance technology led Iranian authorities to him, according to reports.

Isa Saharkhiz, a journalist who has been in jail for more than a year, has been accused of taking part in anti-government rallies.

After fleeing the capital Tehran, Saharkhiz says he was found by authorities and imprisoned after briefly turning on his Nokia phone.

Reports ABC News:

In a recent statement to a European parliamentary committee on human rights, the phone carrier admitted it sold Iran the technology that allows authorities to track mobile phone users.

But the company says it is a standard feature for law enforcement.

It also acknowledges the technology has been used to suppress dissent and agrees that Nokia should have understood the human rights situation in Iran better.

Full story on ABC News at this link…

Further reporting by the Guardian at this link…

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Index on Censorship: Iran’s Green Movement will be reborn in ‘small media’

Mahmood Enayat, a doctoral student at the Oxford Internet Institute and director of Iran, BBC World Service Trust, has an excellent post on reporting Iran, a year on from the presidential election protests.

Small media is key, he argues. “The green movement and its supporters inside and outside Iran need to go beyond the common perception and prescribed use of the internet (like YouTube, Twitter and Facebook) and come up with new and innovative solutions,” he says.

[Opposition leader, Mir Hossein Mousavi] himself has encouraged the green movement to embrace “small media”, which relies on offline social networks for further distribution of information. He is reminding the Green Movement of the lessons learned from the 1979 and Constitution Revolutions as both used small media to mobilise support and achieve their aims.

Full post at this link…

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Newsweek.com: Maziar Bahari’s response to Iranian sentence in absentia

On Sunday [9 May] Newsweek journalist Maziar Bahari was sentenced by Iran in absentia, to 13 years and 6 months in jail and 74 lashes. Over on Newsweek.com, Bahari writes a powerful response, in a piece outlining the charges against him. He ends:

I can write these lines with my tongue firmly in my cheek from the safety of my house in London, of course, but more than 30 journalists, writers, and bloggers are still languishing in Iran’s prisons. Dozens of others are either out on bail or furlough and can be put in prison anytime the Revolutionary Guards desire. Hundreds of other Iranians are in jail for charges that are even more absurd than mine. Five activists were executed on May 8, and 25 others are on death row.

Since the disputed election last June, the regime has somehow managed to contain the public outcry against its injustices by passing preposterous sentences and saturating Iranian cities with the police and Revolutionary Guards. A wave of judgments like the one against me, coming on the eve of the first anniversary of the election, appears aimed at discouraging people from taking part in new mass demonstrations aimed condemning the reelection of Ahmadinejad and the repression that followed.

Whether the regime successfully preempts the demonstrations this time we will have to wait and see, but it cannot play this game forever. Its fantasy of justice, like its fantasy of democracy, and its fantasy of economic development is a farce. Iranians are too smart, and too hungry, for that. One way or another the future will belong to those who want to build their future in the real world.

Previous reports on Journalism.co.uk:

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