Labour MEPs: Iran must stop persecuting, harassing and jailing journalists, trade unionists and human rights activists

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The European Parliament voted today for a resolution condemning Iran for its treatment of journalists, activists, campaigners and human rights activists, and called for the European Union to increase pressure on Tehran.

Among the jounralists that have been targeted for harassment are those from the BBC Persian Service, many of whom are based in London. Family members back in Iran have been jailed by the regime - with the London-based journalists unable to visit them or their sick or dying elderly parents.

Labour MEPs backed the resolution, and have also called for all those unjustly detained in Iran to be released immediately, including Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, the British-Iranian dual citizen serving a five-year prison sentence in Iran for a crime she didn't commit.

Wajid Khan MEP, member of the European Parliament foreign affairs committee, said:

"Human rights defenders and trade union activists are arrested every day. They are arrested simply for campaigning for workers’ rights, for environmental standards and against the death penalty. The Iranian government is harassing BBC Persian journalists and their families. Many EU-Iranian dual nationals remain detained after a lack of due process and under vague charges.

"We heard this week that prominent human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh was given a long prison sentence, for defending dissidents and those brave women who removed their hijab in public. By inflicting such a harsh sentence, the regime is making an example out of Nasrin, and sending out a clear message that freedom of expression is not accepted.

"I have a message for the Iranian authorities: we will not stop calling for the release of Nasrin Sotoudeh, Taher Ghadirian, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and all those who are unfairly detained and have been sentenced without a fair trial. You cannot silence civil society. You cannot repress ideas, especially with the whole world watching. For our part, we will continue to support Iranians who want democracy and freedom for their country."

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Notes to Editors:

  1. The harassment of BBC Persian journalists started when the service launched satellite television in 2009. However, recent measures have escalated this persecution, and there are serious concerns for the safety and wellbeing of journalists and their families.
  2. In 2017 the Iranian authorities commenced a criminal investigation into journalists working for the BBC’s Persian Service in London, alleging their work is a crime against Iran’s national security. This was accompanied by an asset-freezing injunction preventing 152 named individuals, comprising mainly current and former BBC Persian staff, from buying or selling property inside Iran. The vast majority of the 152 named individuals affected by the injunction are UK nationals and live in London. There has also been an escalation in the harassment of their family members, with many interrogated or detained by the authorities. The impact of these measures upon BBC Persian staff has been extremely grave. They are concerned about the risk of further harassment of them or their families if they continue to do their jobs as journalists, or if they speak out to criticise the measures. The financial impact has been significant for many of those affected. Many BBC Persian staff have been unable to return to Iran to visit sick or dying elderly parents.
  3. In August 2018 comments were made through the Mizan news agency, which is affiliated with the Iranian judiciary, about BBC Persian on Iran’s National Day for Journalists. The report described BBC Persian staff and their ‘internal colleagues’ as a mafia gang who ‘must be held answerable for their actions against the Iranian people’. It went on to say that ‘they will surely be exposed one day before the Iranian nation, and God’s hand of justice will manifest itself through the arms of the Iranian people, and they will be punished for their actions.’
  4. In September 2018 inflammatory articles were published by Mizan and by Javan newspaper, a publication which is closely linked to the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. The Javan newspaper’s coverage included a montage of pictures of some members of the BBC Persian service with a headline stating, “All Paid By Terrorism.” The article criticised BBC Persian's coverage of the 22nd September attack on a military parade in the southwestern city of Ahvaz, claimed that BBC Persian had refused to term the attack a “terrorist” incident because of “BBC Persian's ties to takfiri [Sunni extremist] and Saudi financial sources and its being a bedfellow of [Islamic State group].”

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