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Stop Targeting Journalists: BBC Persian Service

2 November 2017

BBC Persian currently reaches 18 million Persian speakers in Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan via satellite television, radio and online.

In Iran, the service reached 13 million people in 2017 and is BBC News' seventh largest market worldwide. BBC Persian has won awards for its impartial coverage of critical events in Iran, including from the Association for International Broadcasting for its election coverage in 2009.

The Iranian authorities have been systematically targeting BBC Persian journalists in the UK, and their families in Iran, since the service launched satellite television in 2009.



In recent months the harassment of BBC Persian staff and families has escalated raising grave concerns about their personal safety and human rights.

In July 2017, the Iranian government started criminal investigations into the activities of journalists and other staff working for BBC Persian, alleging their work constituted a crime against Iran's national security.

In tandem, the Iranian authorities brought an injunction to freeze the assets of 152 named individuals – predominantly current and former BBC Persian staff – preventing them from buying, selling or inheriting property in Iran. The vast majority of those named are also UK nationals. 

BBC Persian Service journalists are calling on the international community for support and solidarity in halting this unprecedented attack.

What you can do to help:

  • Write to your MP or MEP - request the model letter from the NUJ campaigns and communications department (contact details below)
  • Request copies of the campaign posters to be sent to you to put up in your own workplace, or you can download them and print locally
  • Take a workplace picture or selfie with the poster and tweet a message of support to @NUJofficial with the hashtag #stoptargetingjournalists
  • Email the NUJ with a quote or message of support for the campaign 
  • Organise a local NUJ branch or chapel meeting and ask an NUJ BBC Persian chapel rep to attend as a guest speaker
  • Report on this story and help us to raise awareness

Campaign contacts:

If you want to request more information or send a message of support then email the NUJ:

Campaign resources:

Campaign news:

As someone who has made such a lucrative career from working in a free media, an intervention on behalf of the BBC Persia journalists who are being subjected to appalling intimidation is the least he can do, says Ian Burrell in his inews column about Boris Johnson. Does Boris Johnson really care about press freedoms?

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) executive committee, representing 600,000 media workers across the world, has unanimously voted to support the BBC Persian journalists global campaign to stop the targeting, harassment and persecution of journalists and their families by the Iranian authorities.

On Tuesday 21 November, the UK Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, during the FCO questions session in parliament, responded to a question from Diana Johnson MP, and agreed to take up the BBC Persian Service case when speaking with his counterparts in Iran.

Read the NUJ reaction - Support for BBC Persian Service campaign grows.

On Tuesday 14 November, the NUJ called on the British Foreign Secretary to denounce the Iranian targeting of BBC journalists.
The general secretary of the union contacted Boris Johnson to request he raises the plight of BBC journalists when engaging in talks or visiting his counterparts in Iran.
The NUJ continues to call on the British government to take immediate action to ensure this unprecedented attack on British-based media workers is stopped.

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said:

"The Foreign Secretary should be working with the NUJ to bring a stop to the targeting of BBC journalists. For the past eight years, BBC Persian journalists have not been able to travel to Iran safely, and their friends and families in Iran have been subjected to harassment, intimidation, interrogation and travel bans. The British government must do all it can to support BBC journalists and to defend press freedom at home and abroad."


In the House of Lords, Lord Alton of Liverpool on 25 October 2017 asked -

To ask the government what assessment they have made of reports of harassment of BBC Persian Service staff and their families by the Iranian government; and what representations they have made to the Iranian government regarding these reports?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, FCO minister, answered on 7 November 2017- 

"I am aware of recent reports of BBC staff in Iran being harassed and subject to asset freezes and similar forms of mistreatment. These reports are deeply concerning. The UK has repeatedly called on Iran to implement its international obligations to respect the right of freedom of expression, opinion and peaceful assembly, including in cases where journalists are subject to harassment or detention for conducting peaceful activities."

UN urges Iran to stop harassing BBC Persian staff - 25 October 2017

A United Nations expert has urged Iran's government to stop harassing BBC Persian staff and their families. Read the BBC news story.

UN experts call on Iran to stop intimidation of BBC staff - 27 October 2017

Civil and criminal proceedings by Iran against BBC Persian staff and contributors must be halted, two UN human rights specialists have said.

"The Iranian authorities appear to regard any affiliation with the BBC as a crime," said David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, and Asma Jahangir, Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iran, in a joint statement.

"We are concerned at recent reports that the action has now escalated to direct targeting of family members of BBC Persian staff. The measures are clearly aimed at targeting the BBC and at preventing journalists from continuing their legitimate work with BBC Persian."

BBC Persian (BBC Farsi) has been banned from Iran since 2010 on the basis of allegations that it was acting against the country’s national interest.

"We urge the Iranian authorities to cease all legal action against BBC Persian staff and their families, and to cease the use of repressive legislation against independent journalism, whether affiliated to BBC or not," the Special Rapporteurs said.

"In a country with severe limitations on media independence, these measures also constitute an attack on the public’s right to freedom of expression," they added.

Noam Chomsky joins protest against persecution of journalists based at the BBC Persian Service in London:

quote image

BBC Persian Service coverage:

The BBC takes the international campaign to #stoptargetingjournalists to the UN - access the Persian news story.

BBC Persian journalists tell their personal stories, Kasra Naji reports - watch the video in Persian

BBC Persian coverage of the UN joint statement by Asma Jahangir special rapporteur on human rights in Iran, and David Kaye, the special rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression joint statement.

NUT tweet


The UK National Education Union joint general secretary, Kevin Courtney, offers support and solidarity for our campaign.





Download the individual web and social media posters -

Poster 1
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Poster 2
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Poster 3
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Poster 4
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Poster 5
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Tags: , iran, bbc, broadcasting, bbc persian service, journalists in the uk, journalists' rights, solidarity


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