UN human rights experts slam Iran’s crackdown on BBC Persian journalists

"Iranian authorities are prepared to use force extra-territorially"

A pedestrian walks past a BBC logo at Broadcasting House in central London (photo credit: OLIVIA HARRIS/ REUTERS)
A pedestrian walks past a BBC logo at Broadcasting House in central London
(photo credit: OLIVIA HARRIS/ REUTERS)
NEW YORK CITY –A group of UN human rights experts on Wednesday blasted Iranian authorities for their repression of media outlets outside of the Islamic Republic of Iran who aim to shine a rare spotlight on the clerical regime’s activities.
“Journalists working for the BBC Persian Service and other Farsi-language news outlets outside Iran have faced threats, criminal investigations, unlawful surveillance, freezing of assets, defamation and harassment by Iranian authorities. Several journalists have also been targeted for going public about the harassment and seeking protection from the UN,” the experts said in a statement published on the website of the UN Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner.
The experts added that “Their families residing in Iran have faced harassment and intimidation by Iranian authorities. In some cases, family members were deprived of their liberty and held in degrading conditions, and ordered to tell their relatives to stop working for the BBC.”
The violent crackdown on reporters “allegedly intensified after the BBC reporting of the street protests that took place across the country, beginning in November 2019,” noted the statement.
“Reports also indicate a pattern of gender-based harassment, targeting women journalists since 2009, and including the dissemination of false stories, spreading of rumours and slander, usually with highly misogynistic contents and threats of sexual violence,” the expert group said.
The UN experts who published the letter are: Agnes Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Javaid Rehman, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran;  David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression and Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders.
The letter stated that “BBC Persian Service journalists have also been the subject of death threats, allegedly by Iranian authorities. On February 2020 journalist Rana Rahimpour reportedly received a written message threatening that she, her children, her husband and her elderly parents would be assassinated within a month. The message also said that Ms. Rahimpour would be the first employee of the BBC to be killed, and that, after her assassination, it will be the turn of other BBC Persian Service employees.” 
The experts said that“These allegations are extremely concerning and if confirmed, would indicate that the Iranian authorities are prepared to use force extra-territorially, in violation of international law. Harassment, surveillance, death threats against journalists, within and outside domestic boundaries violate international human right law, including the right to physical integrity, the right to life and the right to freedom of expression.”
The group continued: “When these acts are conducted extra-territorially, as with BBC Persian Services, these acts violate international law regulating the use of force in times of peace. These ultimately constitute serious threats to global security and thus demand strong reactions on the part of the Governments of the countries where BBC Persian Service journalists reside."
The experts called on the “the Iranian Government to cease the intimidation, harassment and threats, including death threats, against BBC and other journalists working outside Iran for Farsi-language news outlets, as well as reprisals against their family members in Iran, which may constitute multiple violations of Iran’s international human rights obligations under international law.”