BBC files complaint with UN over online violence against female journalists
The BBC World Service has lodged an “urgent appeal” with the United Nations (UN) against Iran in light of online violence against female journalists working at BBC News Persian.
According to the BBC, female journalists in the Persian service face daily attacks and harassment online.
The ongoing abuses include death and rape threats against women and their families; the attacks by Iranian state media and the Iranian website on the women’s credibility as well as defamatory articles, including accusations of “sexual indecency”; and the hacking and phishing of their personal information. Material from these hacks, such as emails and photographs, is then used to accompany some of the defamatory stories.
Some of the journalists also reported that their family members in Iran had been questioned.
The abuse is so extreme that many female BBC News Persian journalists have withdrawn from social media and other public spaces and even suffered from “significant and serious mental and physical health problems”.
“We absolutely deplore the violent, misogynistic and gender-based harassment that our women journalists face every day,” said Liliane Landor, BBC International News Senior Controller and World Service Director. “Trusted and unbiased journalism is fundamental to any democracy and only by working together can we keep journalists safe everywhere and ensure that women’s voices are included. We must be able to work without hindrance, without threats and without abuse.
BBC World Service international lawyers Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC and Jennifer Robinson said: “Women journalists at BBC News Persian face heinous online violence daily simply for doing their job. This is a paradigmatic case of what UN experts call “gender censorship”. Misogynistic and sexist online abuse and all threats of physical or sexual violence against journalists aim to force women to disconnect and silence women journalists. This is unacceptable and it must stop.
“Iran has international due diligence obligations to take action against those responsible. We call on the UN to condemn the attacks and to ensure that Iran respects its international obligations.
The BBC complaint comes a week after Iran released Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, project manager at the Thomson Reuters Foundation, after six years in detention. She was jailed in 2016 after being convicted of unspecified “national security related” crimes. Zaghari-Ratcliffe briefly worked for the BBC World Service Trust earlier in his career and there was speculation that may have contributed to his false arrest and imprisonment.