Iranian journalists working for the BBC in London have been threatened with being “snatched off the streets” and taken to Iran if they do not resign from their jobs, in fresh attacks from the Middle Eastern country.
Members of the journalists’ families have been told to pass on the threatening messages while they also face harassment and intimidation in their native Iran, the National Union of Journalists has said.
The NUJ said they had been issued at the same time as a period of civil unrest has taken hold in Iran, which the authorities are blaming on journalists and foreign-based news media.
Although banned in Iran, BBC Persian, which broadcasts on radio and, since 2009, TV, nonetheless reaches an estimated 13m people in the country.
It broadcasts out of Broadcasting House in central London and streams live on Youtube, where it has 373,000 subscribers.
Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said: “Once again NUJ members working in the UK are being hounded and harassed by the Iranian state.
“Once again, officials are using outrageous tactics to intimidate and threaten journalists across a range of media outlets in the UK and internationally, including the targeting of our members at Iran International and the BBC Persian Service.
“Once again, we are seeing close relatives and family friends in Iran being cynically weaponised by the Iranian government to intimidate legitimate journalists into giving up their jobs, and to return to Iran – or face being snatched off the streets in London.
“This campaign of harassment has to stop. This cruel and inhumane tormenting of families has to cease.
“The Iranian government must recognise that this harassment of individuals and their families are clearly understood by the international community for what they are – an attack on journalism and on press freedom, one that the NUJ and everyone who cares about media freedom will not allow to be successful.”
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), a network of unions, has said similar cases of harassment targeting journalists are also affecting Iranian journalists based in Germany, France and the Czech Republic.