Iran arrests journalist accused of working for BBC

Rebecca Hawkes | 14-11-2011

The BBC has rejected the assertion by Iranian authorities that a journalist detained in the Islamic Republic on Saturday works for the British broadcaster.

Iran’s official Fars news agency claims Hasan Fathi was arrested after he broadcast a live report for the BBC in Farsi on 12 November about an explosion at a revolutionary guard depot that killed 17 soldiers.

In a statement on Monday (14 November), the BBC reiterated that BBC Persian has no correspondents or employees in Iran.

“The service spoke to Mr Hasan Fathi as an independent commentator, as it does to other independent journalists, academics and other public figures from Iran,” said the BBC.

“We remain concerned about the ongoing efforts by the Iranian authorities to put pressure on the BBC for its balanced and impartial coverage, and to intimidate people who speak to us."

In September, six independent documentary makers were also arrested last in Iran, accused of working for the BBC – an allegation which was also refuted by the British broadcaster, who also says relatives of BBC staff have been arrested and intimidated.

Peter Horrocks, director of global news, BBC, said last month that attempts to bully the broadcaster had reached new highs, and called on “the British and other governments take all necessary means to deter the Iranian government from all these attempts to undermine free media.”

Iran has also been accused by Eutelsat as well as the BBC of repeatedly jamming satellite signals to prevent transmission of BBC Persian.

BBC Persian, which has broadcast in the Farsi language since 2009, does not have a base in Iran. Receiving its broadcasts – or that of any other satellite-provided TV service – is illegal in Iran, though satellite TV reception is widespread in practice.