Iranian authorities block BBC election coverage

The Iranian authorities are blocking the BBC’s broadcasts to the country in an attempt to limit reporting of the aftermath of the disputed election, the corporation said yesterday.

BBC World Service director Peter Horrocks said audiences in Iran, the Middle East and Europe could be affected by the electronic jamming of satellites used to broadcast the BBC Persian TV signal to Iran.

He wrote on the BBC editors’ blog: “There has been intermittent interference from Iran since Friday but this is the heaviest yet.

“It seems to be part of a pattern of behaviour by the Iranian authorities to limit the reporting of the aftermath of the disputed election.

“In Tehran, John Simpson and his cameraman were briefly arrested after they had filmed the material for a piece.

“And at least one news agency in Tehran has come under pressure not to distribute internationally any pictures it might have of demonstrations on the streets in Iran.”

Horrocks said attempts to block the BBC had not stopped viewers in the country from sending in their videos, photos and personal accounts of the country’s elections and their aftermath.

“It is important that what is happening in Iran is reported to the world, but it is even more vital that citizens in Iran know what is happening,” he added.

“That is the role of the recently launched BBC Persian TV which is fulfilling a crucial role in being a free and impartial source of information for many Iranians.

“Any attempt to block this channel is wrong and against international treaties on satellite communication. Whoever is attempting the blocking should stop it now.”

The BBC launched its Persian-language television channel in January despite it being described by an Iranian minister as contrary to his country’s “security”.

Gholam Hossein Mohseini Ejehi was quoted by Iran’s official IRNA news agency as saying the country would take measures against the channel.

He said at the time: “We don’t consider this channel to be appropriate for our security. We will take the necessary measures in this regard.”

Last year, an Iranian MP accused the BBC of using the channel to recruit spies.

Mohammad Karim Abedi said the corporation was planning on setting up an intelligence network using the launch of the channel as cover.

A BBC spokesman said its only goal was to report on world events in an impartial and editorially independent manner.

BBC Persian TV is the broadcaster’s second foreign-language TV channel after the launch of BBC Arabic last year.

The BBC has run a Persian-language radio service since 1940.

It also operates a Persian-language news site online, although access to some of that output has been blocked by the Iranian authorities.

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