BBC makes urgent appeal to United Nations over persecution of BBC Persian staff by Iran

Professor David Kaye, UN Special Rapporteur, freedom of opinion and expression 


UN Special Rapporteurs Professor David Kaye and Ms Asma Jahangir have expressed serious concerns about the persecution of BBC Persian staff by Iran at the UN General Assembly following an urgent appeal filed by Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC and Jennifer Robinson on behalf of the BBC.


The urgent appeal was filed with Professor David Kaye, UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and Asma Jahangir, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, late last week. It relates to the recent asset-freezing injunction and underlying criminal investigation which is targeted at 152 individuals, comprising current and former BBC Persian staff and contributors.


This latest measure forms part of an ongoing campaign of harassment and persecution by the Iranian authorities targeting BBC Persian staff and their families because of their work as journalists with the BBC. The urgent appeal details numerous human rights concerns, including:


  • A spurious criminal investigation on national security grounds directed at BBC Persian journalists collectively because of their journalism;
  • The associated collective application of a punitive and disproportionate financial sanction, which applies to BBC Persian staff and anyone who jointly owns property with them;
  • A pattern of arbitrary detention for the purposes of interrogation, surveillance and other forms of harassment and threats against BBC Persian staff and their families making them fear for their safety and security; and
  • The confiscation of passports and imposition of travel restrictions or bans on family members in Iran to prevent their ability to enjoy their family life.


Tony Hall, Director General of the BBC, said:


The Iranian government is conducting what appears to be a politically motivated investigation into 152 BBC Persian staff, former staff and contributors accusing them of conspiracy against national security in Iran.  This is an unprecedented collective punishment of journalists who are simply doing their jobs…The BBC will use all available legal avenues to challenge this order and we call on the international community to use their own influence in Iran to persuade the authorities that this completely unacceptable treatment must end.


Ms Jahangir, UN Special Rapporteur on Iran, raised concern with the treatment of BBC staff as part of her statement to the UN General Assembly when formally presenting her report.


The urgent appeal has been widely reported in domestic and international media, including BBC, Guardian, Times, Washington Post, and Reuters.


Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC and Jennifer Robinson are instructed by the BBC to act on behalf of all BBC Persian staff. They are members of Doughty Street International’s Media Defence Panel. More details about the Panel are available here

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