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

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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