In pushing a media blackout of coverage within its borders, the Republic of Iran set conditions on BBC, essentially telling them they can’t report on anything happening Iran’s borders on BBC Persian.
The BBC agreed to the terms, angering workers at the station.
Yashar Ali of Huffington Post reported on the agreement, noting that it is a “capitulation to a government that has been hostile to press freedom.”
The email, sent Saturday to all BBC Persian staff by a BBC Persian digital editor, said that BBC foreign correspondent Martin Patience and his team were in Iran “and due to leave on Sunday.”
The email goes on to say, “It is absolutely imperative that none of their material is run on BBC Persian TV, Radio or Online now or in the future. That includes any official BBC Persian social feed retweeting or forwarding the coverage. Please do not use the material and stories produced in Iran on any platform or in any format.”
It’s unclear who at the BBC agreed to the exclusivity terms.
The BBC responded to the Post:
All international media are subject to reporting restrictions in Iran. We accepted some limitations on this occasion in order to provide our audiences with rare insights from inside the country and this is signposted in our coverage. As ever, the BBC maintains full editorial control over what we broadcast. These reports – our first from inside Iran in 5 years – do not change our unwavering commitment to our BBC Persian staff and their families, who have suffered completely unacceptable harassment from the Iranian authorities since 2009.
According to Ali’s reporting, the revelation of the agreement with Iran has angered BBC Persian staff, who have been targeted by Iran in the past. The capitulation comes two years after Iran targeted current (at the time) and former BBC Persia staff by freezing their assets.
In 2017, the Iranian government froze the assets of 152 current and former BBC Persian staff. Iran also opened up a criminal investigation into the 152 individuals and accused them of a “conspiracy against national security.” BBC Persian staffers have been subjected to death threats by the Iranian government, haven’t been able to return to Iran for fear that they will be arrested, and their family members living within Iran have been subjected to harassment and threats from the Iranian government.
In 2017, the BBC filed a complaint with the United Nations, stating, “This is not just a campaign against BBC Persian staff but against fundamental human rights, and the BBC calls on the government of Iran to end this legal action immediately,” Tony Hall, the director-general of the BBC said, at the time.
The BBC appears to have changed its tune and is now being fully compliant with the Iranian government’s efforts to censor coverage within its borders. Staffers at BBC Persian feel the agreement is just further persecution of them and their jobs.
Journalism, when done right, is supposed to shine a light on the good and the bad of the world. It isn’t meant to hide what’s going on. The BBC is allowing Iran to hide what’s going on with this decision, and it’s making a mistake in doing so. It’s a shame that they have decided to capitulate here.