Iran slams BBC over film about Israel relations

Islamic Republic says Iranian-Canadian's film includes "unauthorized" footage shot in Tehran.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei prays 390 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei prays 390
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Iran sharply criticized the BBC on Friday for airing what it said was “illegal footage” of Tehran in a new documentary examining the history of Iran’s relationship with Israel, from the Babylonian exile through the present conflict.
BBC Persian – whose broadcasts are jammed in Iran – posted Iranian- Canadian journalist Maziar Bahari’s film, From Cyrus to Ahmadinejad, on its website last week, where it is still available for viewing. The Persian-language channel has also organized a showing of the documentary at London’s Frontline Club later this month.
In March, BBC Persian also broadcast an interview with Bahari, in which he discusses the film.
Bahari’s documentary includes interviews conducted at the BBC World Service office in Tehran, and the London-based filmmaker also traveled to Israel to interview deputy prime minister Moshe Ya’alon as well as Iranian-born Israelis.
The 55-minute film examines Israel’s relationship with Iran from the time of Persian King Cyrus the Great, who helped the Jews return to Israel from exile in Babylonia in the sixth century BC, through the Jewish state’s covert dealings with Iran both before and after the fall of the Shah in the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
On Friday, the Basij paramilitary militia website ran a statement saying that BBC Persian was broadcasting the documentary illegally, because of a ban on airing footage taken in Iran.
On Thursday afternoon, an almost identical statement appeared on Iran’s state-run Press TV’s English and Persian websites, although the Persian version noted that Bahari had visited the “occupied Palestinian territories” to make his film, whereas the English version referred to a visit to “Israel.”
Iran’s anger over Bahari’s documentary is also the latest development in an ongoing row over the UK’s decision in January to revoke Iran’s state-owned Press TV’s license to broadcast in Britain, after the Iranian channel aired an interview last year of Bahari obtained under duress during his 118-day detention in a Tehran prison in 2009.
The Iranian authorities arrested Bahari during the 2009 Iranian election protests. After he left Iran, the Islamic Republic’s revolutionary court tried him in absentia and sentenced him to 13.5 years in prison and 74 lashes.
After Bahari complained about Press TV’s airing his interview “confession” last May, UK media regulator, Ofcom ruled that the Iranian broadcaster had seriously breached British broadcasting regulations by airing that interview. A month later, the UK froze Press TV’s assets, a move the state-owned channel dubbed “a British style conspiracy.’ Press TV later accused Bahari of being an “MI6 contact person,” and said Ofcom was linked to pro-Israeli British politicians.
In Thursday’s statement, Press TV accused the British royal family of being behind Ofcom’s move to revoke its UK license, saying that the Islamic Republic’s TV channel had angered the monarchy because of its coverage of last April’s Royal Wedding.
In another development last week, Munich-based media regulator BLM announced it was dropping Press TV from its SES Astra satellite channel, stating that the broadcasting company does not have a license to broadcast in Europe.
Iran reacted angrily to the move, with the Judiciary of Iran’s High Council for Human Rights dubbing the decision “clearly part of a plot by the West to silence the voice of the Iranian English language channel.”
Press TV, which slammed the move as illegal, has launched a lawsuit against BLM.