U.N. Escalates BBC’s Complaint Over Iran’s Harassment of Persian Journalists

The United Nations has escalated the BBC’s complaint over Iran.

In March, the British broadcaster filed an “urgent” U.N. complaint regarding the country’s harassment of female journalists in its Persian service.

“We absolutely deplore the violent, misogynistic and gendered harassment our women journalists have to face every day,” Liliane Landor, senior controller of BBC International News and director of World Service said at the time. “Trusted and impartial journalism is fundamental to any democracy and it is only by working together that we can ensure the safety of journalists everywhere and ensure women’s voices are included. We have to be able to work unhindered, free from threats and free from abuse.”

Now the U.N. has responded by raising its concerns directly with Iran. According to an update from the BBC, in May the international organization formally asked Iran to respond to the BBC’s complaint and put forward an explanation. It also cited its “grave concern over the continuation of reported harassment and intimidation of the BBC News Persian staff and their family members, which appears to be aimed at preventing them from continuing their journalistic activities with BBC News Persian.”

In its response, Iran claimed that BBC Persia was launched “with the purpose of transforming and soft overthrow of the Islamic Republic of Iran” and suggested those who had been prosecuted or legally penalized were guilty of “disrupt[ing] public order and national security.”

Responding in a statement, Landor said: “We are grateful to the United Nations for raising our grave concerns about the treatment of our BBC News Persian journalists. We reject Iran’s attempt to justify its behaviour – the sanctions and harassment against our colleagues and their families must stop.”

Relations between the U.K. and Iran continue to be rocky. In March, Iran released dual Iranian/British citizen Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who had been unlawfully detained in the country for six years, under spurious charges of planning to overthrow the Iranian government.

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