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Mon 19 Sep 2011 06:51 PM

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Iran arrests BBC contributors over criticism of state

Arrests is latest attempt by Iran to squeeze BBC over news coverage, says British broadcaster

Iran arrests BBC contributors over criticism of state
BBC logo, headquarters

Iran
has arrested several people for supplying information to the British
Broadcasting Corporation, accusing them of seeking to portray a negative image
of the Islamic state, media reported on Monday.

Few
western journalists are permitted to work in Iran where the government views
much of the foreign media with suspicion. The BBC's Farsi-language TV news
service is only available to owners of illegal satellite receivers and its
signal is often jammed.

The
newspaper Resalat said five men and one woman had been arrested, identifying
them only by their initials. "They were members of a network which
supplies information, produces films and clandestine reports for the BBC
Persian programme, aimed at portraying a bleak picture of Iran," Resalat
said.

The
hardline daily Kayhan said a number of people had been arrested "in different
places in the capital."

It
quoted Revolutionary Guards spokesman Ramezan Sharif as saying: "The BBC
tries to identify elements inside the country [who produce] particular cultural
productions in order to use them against the Islamic establishment."

BBC
Persian broadcasts live news, documentaries and entertainment programmes aimed
at Farsi speakers, mostly in Iran and Afghanistan. Terrestrial Iranian television
is completely controlled by the state.

In
London, the BBC said in a statement that the six filmmakers arrested in Iran
were not BBC staffers but "independent documentary filmmakers whose films
have been screened in festivals and other venues internationally."

BBC
Persian television had brought the rights to broadcast their and other films, a
common practice, but had not commissioned them, the statement quoted Liliane
Landor, Controller, Languages, BBC Global News, as saying.

"We
consider this [the arrests] to be part of ongoing efforts by the Iranian
government to put pressure on the BBC for the impartial and balanced coverage
of its Persian-language TV of events in Iran and the wider region," Landor
said.

Iran
has accused foreign media of helping foment the unrest that followed the
disputed 2009 re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

International
human rights groups frequently criticise the lack of freedom of expression in
Iran. Tehran denies the charge, saying it allows free speech. Iranian
journalists say they have to tread carefully in their reporting to avoid having
their publications closed.

The
publicly funded BBC said its Persian television "has been subject to
increasing and aggressive jamming from within Iran. The channel has suffered
deliberate attempts to interfere with its signal intermittently since its
launch in 2009."

"The
interference intensified on the evening of Saturday 17 September just as the
channel had begun broadcasting a documentary about Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah
(Ali) Khamenei," it added.

procan 8 years ago

Pressuring BBC - good luck. Iranians should be pressurising their government.