NUJ calls for end of harassment of journalists by Iranian state

  • 14 Jul 2021

Following the attempted kidnap of an Iranian journalist in New York, the union has highlighted the threats to the Iranian press in the UK.

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said:

“The case in New York is a salutary reminder of the dangers posed by agents of the Iranian state to journalists, even when they are going about their jobs in countries around the world. The audacious plot to kidnap Brooklyn-based journalist, Masih Alinejad, smuggle her out of the city on a speedboat, sail to Venezuela and then fly to Tehran shows the extraordinary lengths to which the regime will go to in order to silence their critics and send a chilling message to journalists around the world.

“We know this is not an isolated case, and the NUJ continues to campaign against the ongoing threats and harassment made to our members here in the UK, working at various newsrooms including our chapels at Iran International and the BBC Persian Service. They have been put under inordinate strain, their relatives back in Iran have been weaponised and threatened, and family assets have been frozen. This criminalisation of journalists has to stop, and we continue to work with the International Federation of Journalists at the UN and directly with governments to put an end to this harassment.”

The BBC reported that: “Four Iranian nationals have been charged with plotting to kidnap a New York-based journalist, the US Department of Justice says. The indictment did not name the target, but Masih Alinejad, an Iranian-born author, says it was her.”  All of the targets had been critical of Iran and a similar plot had been planned in Canada.  BBC report

Paul Siegert, the NUJ’s national broadcasting organiser said:

“Everyday Iranian journalists based in this country live in fear that what happened in New York could happen to them. That’s on top of the daily harassment and abuse they have to live with. Their families are also constantly targeted and used as weapons against them. And all just because they are journalists doing their job. The NUJ will continue its campaigning work until this type of terrible behaviour stops.”

Last month the NUJ and the International Federation of Journalists together with the BBC and legal experts from Doughty Street Chambers highlighted the plight of Iranian journalists at an online event to coincide with the United Nations Human Rights Council’s 47th session.

The NUJ is campaigning on behalf of its members working for the BBC News Persian and Iran International who are being systematically targeted and harassed by the Iranian authorities because of their work as journalists. Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said at the event:

“Journalists based here in the UK are being harassed simply because of the work they do. Their families in Iran are being weaponised, causing enormous stress and strain for our members at the BBC News Persian and Iran International. This outrageous and unacceptable abuse has to stop, and we are calling on the new government in Iran to stop these attacks on journalists and journalism."

BBC foreign correspondent, John Simpson, said the targeting and harassment of BBC Persian staff is "a matter of huge importance not just to the BBC, not even just to journalism but to the international community as a whole". He said the regime in Iran had reverted to tactics that were used by the USSR during the Cold War, including attempts to intimidate journalists and exerting pressure on their relatives and friends, even though some of the individuals affected have no control over or even links to BBC journalists. 

BBC Persian television presenter, Kasra Naji, said the persecution of BBC journalists had "become a matter of life and death". Iranian journalists working in London have received death threats, their children, spouses and parents have also been threatened; 69 BBC staff members have had their family called in for questioning in Iran by the authorities and people have been threatened with arrest, rendition and kidnapping.

Unions highlight plight of Iranian journalists at UN event

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