UK firm ‘facilitating Iran’s human rights abuses'

US pressure group accuses Arqiva of playing "harmful role" by transmitting IRIB programming.

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June 14, 2012 06:13
2 minute read.
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A US-based pressure group accused a British company this week of facilitating Iran’s human rights abuses by providing broadcasting services to the Islamic Republic’s state media.

United Against a Nuclear Iran (UANI) said it has ramped up its campaign to get UK communications infrastructure company Arqiva to stop broadcasting and transmitting networks operated by the state-controlled Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB).

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Iran uses international companies to provide the infrastructure for its broadcasting and telecoms services, even as it ramps up its attempts to prevent civilian Internet use and jams broadcasts from international news networks, including the Voice of America and BBC Persian.

Arqiva facilitates the regime-controlled IRIB’s Persian television transmissions as well as its English-language outlet Press TV and Al-Alam in Arabic, according to UANI.

In January, the UK revoked Press TV’s license to broadcast in Britain, after the channel aired an interview of Iranian journalist Maziar Bahari obtained under duress during his 118-day detention in a Tehran prison.

In March, two months after that decision, the European Union added IRIB’s director, Ezzatollah Zarghami, to its sanctions list, stating that IRIB had broadcast forced confessions of detainees as well as a series of “show trials” in August 2009 and again in December 2011.

In a recent letter to Arqiva, UANI president Kristen Silverberg warned the British company that it could run afoul of recent US sanctions legislation if it continues to provide services to IRIB. The most recent legislation, passed in April, sanctions entities that have sold or provided goods, services or technologies to Iran or Syria likely to be used to facilitate computer or network disruption, monitoring or tracking.



The pressure group also accused Arqiva of acting contrary to the position on Iran of the British government, which opposes human rights abuses.

“By facilitating IRIB’s broadcast of libelous programs and hate speech against religious minorities, forced confessions of peaceful dissidents and civil society activists, and “show trials” of political prisoners, Arqiva is serving to further the Iranian regime’s campaign of persecution and repression against its own citizens,” Silverberg wrote.

In a response to a query from The Jerusalem Post regarding its continued operations in Iran, an Arqiva spokesman said the company supplied satellite services to a “wide range of international customers,” provided their transmissions were “legal and licensed.” The company was in “regular dialogue with the UK government and associated regulatory bodies in other jurisdictions to ensure all legal criteria are complied with,” the spokesman added.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, UANI spokesman Nathan Carleton slammed Arqiva’s response, saying it did not address the pressure group’s concerns.

“It is irresponsible of Arqiva to treat the Iranian regime the same as it does its other international customers, given the regime’s abysmal human rights record and sponsorship of terrorism,” Carleton told the Post.

He added: “Arqiva should cut all of its ties to Iran, and comply with international sanctions that bar the suppression of free speech.”

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