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NUJ members angered by BBC deal on access to Iran

22 July 2019

Journalists working for the BBC's Persian Service have reacted with anger and dismay to the news that BBC management has again agreed to reporting restrictions in exchange for access to Iran, just at the time Iran has stepped up its harassment and persecution of BBC Persian staff and their families. 

BBC Persian Service staff have been told they are not allowed to use BBC reporting materials gathered inside the country.

The union is calling on the BBC to change their approach in future and refuse stringent conditions that single out and exclude the BBC Persian Service.

The decision sends the wrong signal to the Iranian government which appears to have been allowed to influence and determine the BBC's Persian Service output.

NUJ members have reported an increase in online attacks as a consequence of the decision. Staff also believe their professional integrity has been undermined and they fear there will be a negative impact on the ongoing international campaign aimed at stopping the harassment and persecution of BBC Persian staff and their families by the Iranian authorities.

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said:

"We have worked together with the BBC for years on a united international campaign to amplify the voices of BBC Persian staff and to call out the harassment and persecution inflicted on them by the Iranian authorities. The decision by the BBC to agree to prevent the Persian Service from using material gathered in Iran has deeply affected the morale and well-being of our members.
"The union is not opposed to the BBC sending teams to report from the country but this must not be in exchange for restrictive conditions placed on the BBC Persian Service. The corporation needs to reflect on what it has done, acknowledge the hurt and distress caused and resolve to change their approach in future."

The Iranian authorities have been systematically targeting BBC Persian journalists – who are mainly based in London – and their families in Iran, since the service launched satellite television in 2009.

In 2017 the Iranian authorities commenced a criminal investigation into journalists working for the BBC’s Persian Service, alleging their work is a crime against Iran’s national security. This was accompanied by an asset-freezing injunction preventing 152 named individuals, comprising mainly current and former BBC Persian staff, from buying or selling property inside Iran.

Other measures against the journalists and their families have included arbitrary arrest and detention of family members in Iran, the confiscation of passports and travel bans targeting family members leaving Iran, ongoing surveillance and harassment, and the spread of fake and defamatory news stories designed to undermine the reputation of BBC Persian staff and their families, for example by accusing female journalists of prostitution or infidelity.

Tags: , iran, bbc, bbc persian service, bbc world service, broadcasting, harassment, media access, media coverage, media freedom