DUBAI (Reuters) - More than 150 Iranian current and former BBC staff and contributors have been barred from major financial transactions in Iran, an Iranian court order seen by Reuters showed, in a fresh step against foreign media seen as hostile to Tehran.
The order bans 152 individuals from any transaction that needs to be registered, including buying or selling property or any “movable or immovable assets” in Iran, restrictions the British broadcaster said on Tuesday were effectively an asset freeze.
All individuals on the list work, or have worked, for BBC Persian, part of the BBC World Service. A Reuters correspondent who was working for the BBC until 2015 was also on the list.
The order was issued in July by a prosecutor’s office based in Evin Prison in Tehran and ratified by Iran’s deputy prosecutor-general in August before being announced to all registration offices in the country.
The order gave no explanation for the move.
The Director of the BBC World Service called on the Iranian authorities to reverse the measure.
“We deplore what appears to be a targeted attack on BBC Persian staff, former staff, and some contributors. It is appalling that anyone should suffer legal or financial consequences because of their association with the BBC,” Francesca Unsworth said in a statement.
“We call upon the Iranian authorities to reverse this order urgently and allow BBC staff and former staff to enjoy the same financial rights as their fellow citizens.”
Iran accused the BBC of inciting unrest after the disputed re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2009 and said its journalists were broadcasting against the national interests of the Islamic Republic.
The following year it banned Iranians from contact with dozens of foreign organizations, including the BBC, which it said were seeking to topple the Islamic theocracy.
The management of BBC Persian described the court order as another attempt by Iran’s judiciary to silence impartial journalists.
Amir Azimi, acting head of BBC Persian, said its journalists would “continue to bring independent, impartial and trusted news to Persian speakers around the world”. The BBC says it reaches an audience of 13 million in Iran.
Iranian journalists say Iranian authorities have long tried to intimidate those working for BBC Persian by arresting them on their visits to the country and harassing or threatening family members of those living overseas.
Human rights activists say President Hassan Rouhani has been more focused on reducing Iran’s international isolation and improving its economy than on delivering more freedom at home or releasing political prisoners.
Reporting by Dubai Newsroom