Five men and one woman were recently arrested in Tehran under the accusation that they sought to portray a negative image of the Islamic state through supplying information to the BBC, according to an Iranian state media report on Monday. The BBC, known for broadcasting news, documentaries, and entertainment programs targeted towards Farsi speakers, clarified that the arrested do not work for the organization but are independent filmmakers whose copyrighted work it had previously purchased.
According to Liliane Landor, a senior BBC official, the arrests are “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.” Iran’s mullahs are known for being strongly opposed to the BBC (as well as other Farsi-language foreign media), and have taken extreme measures against it including jamming its broadcasts and blocking its websites.
Iran’s rulers: Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (L) and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
This is ironic, coming from a country whose president openly called Israel “the most cruel and repressive racist regime” at 2009’s Durban Conference. (The conference’s ten year anniversary is being honored at the UN today with another speech by the Iranian president.)
Prior to his address at the UN General Assembly on Thursday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared his country to be “a new model for life to the world.” But the arrests earlier this week are just one more example on top of countless examples that serve to confirm how untrue his statement is. Iran consistently scores “Not Free” by Freedom House studies; the government lacks transparency and has little respect for freedom of press, speech, or pursuit of knowledge. Protecting human rights is not a pillar of the Iranian regime, nor is fostering human development.