BBC journalists among victims of Iranian government 'intimidation'

BBC staff are among the journalists being targeted in a crackdown by the Iranian government, according to the corporation.

Reports from the country this morning claimed 11 journalists had been arrested, being accused of cooperation with foreign-based Persian media organisations.

Journalists from the BBC’s Persian service in Tehran this morning said that their family members were being arrested and that fake Facebook accounts, implicating them in sexual misconduct and saying they work for MI6, were being set up on their behalf.

According to Peter Horrocks, the BBC’s global news director, these false allegations are also being relayed on the country’s state television.

Horrocks told BBC Radio 4 it was an attempt by authorities to "persuade some people in the Iranian population that the BBC Persian service is as they claim distorted and following the British government's agenda".

Chief editors in Tehran reportedly told Associated Press that 11 journalists were taken into custody late on Sunday because of their “foreign contacts”.

A presidential election is now five months away, and news agencies including Reuters have suggested the arrests are an attempt by the government to stifle the media and prevent a repeat of the protests that followed 2009’s disputed election.

The arrested journalists are reported to be from six different news organisations, including four daily papers, a weekly and the semi-official ILNA news agency.

Iran has in recent years denounced the BBC's Persian service and Voice of America, describing them as arms of British and US intelligence agencies.

It has warned of severe repercussions for journalists and activists caught having contact with these outlets.

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