Pre-Emptive Strike Against Journalists in Iran
PEN is following troubling developments in Iran, where authorities appear to have launched a pre-emptive strike on journalists in advance of the upcoming 2013 elections. We’re already monitoring the cases of at least 15 journalists who have been arrested over the last several days in what the Committee to Protect Journalists calls “the largest crackdown on the press since 2009,” when scores were imprisoned in the aftermath of mass protests of the last presidential elections.
The government has also found ways to harass Iranian journalists reporting from outside the country. Staff of the BBC’s Persian service, based in London, appear to have been the subject of a smear campaign in which pro-government cyber activists have set up fake Facebook accounts and blogs under the names of those reporters and staffers, in which they admit sexual misconduct and working for the M16. Authorities have also been intimidating their family members still in Iran. The parents of one journalist were reportedly told during repeated interrogation sessions that “he should stop working for the BBC or risk being killed.”
The trouble for BBC journalists appears to have begun with the airing of Maziar Bahari’s documentary about forced confessions in Iran in December 2012. You may remember Maziar: he was arrested on June 21, 2009, for his reporting on the protests—just two days, in fact, after a satirical interview with The Daily Show’s Jason Jones was aired—and was held in Evin Prison for 118 very long days. He was later sentenced in absentia to 13.5 years in prison and a flogging for various crimes against the state.
Less than a year after his release, Maziar rejoined Jason Jones on stage during the 2010 PEN World Voices Festival for an enlightening conversation about Iran. His insight then provides a glimpse into the authorities’ motives today.