The BBC said it is appealing to the United Nations in Geneva to protect the human rights of its journalists and their families as Iranian authorities escalate “years of persecution and harassment.”
The unprecedented move follows its own unheeded calls to Tehran to end the harassment of staff working for the British broadcaster’s Persian Service, according to BBC director general,Tony Hall.
“The BBC is taking the unprecedented step of appealing to the United Nations because our own attempts to persuade the Iranian authorities to end their harassment have been completely ignored,” Hall said in a statement.
“In fact, during the past nine years, the collective punishment of BBC Persian Service journalists and their families has worsened.”
Lawyers for the BBC World Service in October filed an urgent appeal to UN Special Rapporteurs David Kaye and Asma Jahangir on behalf of its Persian Service staff.
BBC journalists will now try to increase the pressure on member states for support by addressing a UN Human Rights Council session this week, the corporation said in a statement.
It will also hold a series of events organized in conjunction with the International Federation of Journalists to highlight the fraught situation, including holding a press conference on Monday.
“This is not just about the BBC — we are not the only media organization to have been harassed or forced to compromise when dealing with Iran,” said Hall.
“We are now asking the community of nations at the UN to support the BBC and uphold the right to freedom of expression.”
The BBC says its Persian satellite television service journalists in London and their families in Iran have been “systematically targeted” since it launched in 2009.
The harassment escalated last year when Iranian authorities began a criminal investigation alleging their work was “a crime against Iran’s national security,” according to the BBC.
Tehran has also launched an asset-freezing injunction citing 152 named individuals, mainly current and former BBC Persian staff, which has prevented them from buying or selling property in Iran, it added.
In a report to be tabled and discussed at the Human Rights Council, UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Iran, Asma Jahangir, said the body was “disturbed” at the accusations.