For the Attention of the Ambassador,
This week the British Broadcasting Corporation is making an unprecedented appeal to the United Nations, with BBC journalists appearing in the Human Rights Council 37th session (HRC37) to call upon member states to protect BBC Persian journalists and their families.
Should you be attending HRC37 today, you are most welcome to attend an event to discuss this case and what can be done to protect foreign-based journalists from cross-jurisdictional state persecution.
Represented by Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC and Jennifer Robinson of Doughty Street Chambers, the BBC World Service filed an urgent appeal to the UN Special Rapporteurs David Kaye and Asma Jahangir about the persecution and harassment of BBC Persian. This is the first time in the history of the BBC that it has engaged with UN special mechanisms. As a result of this work and an innovative legal and advocacy campaign prepared by Doughty Street working with the BBC, the International Federation of Journalists and the National Union of Journalists, the case has now been reported by the UN Secretary General and the UN Special Rapporteur on Iran.
For more information about the case, please click here where a fuller report appears on our website. Further information about BBC Persian related events at HRC37 can be found below in the full BBC press release.
With kind regards,
Doughty Street Chambers International Media Defence Panel
BBC Makes Unprecedented Human Rights Appeal to UN
For the first time in its history, the BBC is making an appeal to the United Nations in Geneva to protect the human rights of BBC journalists and their families. This unprecedented move comes in response to years of persecution and harassment by the Iranian authorities, which escalated in 2017.
BBC Director General, Tony Hall, said: “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. In fact, during the past nine years, the collective punishment of BBC Persian Service journalists and their families has worsened. This is not just about the BBC – we are not the only media organisation to have been harassed or forced to compromise when dealing with Iran. In truth, this story is much wider: it is a story about fundamental human rights. We are now asking the community of nations at the UN to support the BBC and uphold the right to freedom of expression.”
Represented by Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC and Jennifer Robinson of Doughty Street Chambers, the BBC World Service filed an urgent appeal to UN Special Rapporteurs David Kaye and Asma Jahangir on behalf of BBC Persian staff in October 2017. This week BBC journalists will, for the first time ever, address the Human Rights Council session to call upon member states to take action to protect BBC staff and to ensure their ability to report freely.
Working with the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the BBC has organised a series of events during the 37th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva this week about BBC Persian. These activities include a press conference on Monday 12 March and a side event on Thursday 15 March. BBC representatives will address the Human Rights Council as IFJ spokespeople.
Jeremy Dear, Deputy General Secretary of the International Federation of Journalists, said: “For many years Iranian journalists have suffered; been forced into hiding, fled into exile, been arrested, jailed and subjected to routine harassment, violence and intimidation. Iranians now increasingly turn to the international media to find out what is happening in their own country. Targeting family members in Iran in an attempt to silence journalists working in London must be stopped; the international community must act now.”
BBC Persian Service journalists in London and their families in Iran have been systematically targeted since the BBC's satellite television service was launched in 2009. In 2017 the harassment escalated when the Iranian authorities commenced a criminal investigation, alleging BBC Persian Service journalists’ work was a crime against Iran’s national security. This was accompanied by an asset-freezing injunction citing 152 named individuals, comprising mainly of current and former BBC Persian staff, and this injunction prevented journalists and their families from buying or selling their homes and other property in Iran.
Other measures include the arbitrary arrest and detention of family members in Iran, the confiscation of passports and travel bans preventing people leaving Iran, ongoing surveillance of journalists and their families, and the spread of fake and defamatory news targeting individuals especially women journalists.
On Monday 12 March in Geneva, the late UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Iran, Asma Jahangir’s report will be tabled and discussed at the Human Rights Council. The report states:
“In the course of her missions, the Special Rapporteur also met individuals working for the Persian Service of the British Broadcasting Corporation. They described how they and their families in the Islamic Republic of Iran had been harassed by the authorities, and threatened if they continued to work for the Service. Some were arbitrarily arrested, detained, and subjected to travel bans. In August 2017, a court in Tehran issued an injunction banning 152 members of staff, former employees, and contributors from carrying out financial transactions in the country on account of “conspiracy against national security”. Until the time of writing, the injunction has not been lifted and harassment has continued. The Special Rapporteur was disturbed after hearing the accounts of the staff members, observing that many preferred to talk individually and in strict privacy. It has been also reported that some staff members have been photographed while in London to impress upon their families that their relative was being watched. The level of fear that Iranians have whether inside the country or outside of it can be illustrated by the fact that the staff members have endured such intimidation for over twelve months. In October 2017, Special Procedure mandate holders issued a statement calling upon the Islamic Republic of Iran to cease all legal action against the staff and their families, and to cease the use of repressive legislation against independent journalism.”
UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights Situation in Iran report presentation in the Human Rights Council: Monday 12 March from 9.00-12.00. Iran respond to the report and Kasra Naji, Special Correspondent for BBC Persian TV, is listed to address the Human Rights Council in response to the report as an IFJ spokesperson.
UN BBC press conference: Monday 12 March from 14.00 at Geneva’s Palais des Nations press room 2. Speakers include: Tarik Kafala – Controller, BBC World Service Languages, Kasra Naji - Special Correspondent for BBC Persian TV, and Jeremy Dear - Deputy General Secretary of the International Federation of Journalists.
General debate, UN Human Rights Council, Wednesday 14 March at around 11.00, Rana Rahimpour - News Presenter and Reporter for BBC Persian Service, is listed to address the Human Rights Council as an IFJ spokesperson.
UN BBC side event: Thursday 15 March from 15.00 - 16.00, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva room XXII. Speakers include: Jamie Angus - Director of BBC World Service Group, Rana Rahimpour - News Presenter and Reporter for BBC Persian Service, Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC - Doughty Street Chambers, Maziar Bahari - Journalism is not a Crime campaign, David Kaye - Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression (video), Jeremy Dear - Deputy General Secretary of the International Federation of Journalists (chair).
At the BBC in London: Paul Rasmussen firstname.lastname@example.org
In Geneva during the session: Sarah Kavanagh email@example.com
The full Asma Jahangir report that will be presented and discussed on Monday 12 March: http://webtv.un.org/meetings-events/human-rights-council/
In October 2017, the BBC World Service filed an urgent appeal with the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, David Kaye, and the late UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran, Asma Jahangir. The grounds for the appeal were that BBC Persian Service staff were being targeted because of their work as journalists. The complaint was communicated to Iran on 24 October 2017. Iran has failed to respond within time: https://spcommreports.ohchr.org/TMResultsBase/DownLoadPublicCommunicationFile?gId=23414
Following the BBC’s urgent appeal, the UN Secretary-General’s report for the Human Rights Council on 28 February 2018 reported “special procedure mandate holders issued a statement calling upon the Islamic Republic of Iran to cease all legal action against the BBC staff and their families, and to end the use of repressive legislation against independent journalism, whether affiliated to the BBC or not.”
See full report:http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Countries/IR/A_HRC_37_24_EN.docx
The BBC Persian Service launched in 1940 and is one of the oldest of the BBC’s non-English language services. In 2009, the BBC launched BBC Persian Television to complement its existing radio and online service, which is broadcast by satellite and is available online for the 100 million Farsi speakers in Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan. BBC Persian reaches an estimated international audience of 18 million every week. BBC Persian has won awards for its impartial coverage of critical events in Iran, including from the Association for International Broadcasting for its election coverage in 2009.
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is the world's largest organisation of journalists. First established in 1926, it represents around 600,000 journalists in 187 unions and associations across 146 countries worldwide including the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) in the UK and Ireland.
Doughty Street Chambers and its international team is a leading group of international lawyers with expertise in advise and advocacy on all aspects of international law. The Doughty Street International Media Defence Panel advises media organisations and journalists at risk around the world.