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Iranian Journalists Cautioned On Working with "Antagonistic Networks"

By Mohammad Reza Yazdanpanah, Rooz Online

The press deputy at Iran's ministry of Islamic Guidance called the BBC Persian Service and Voice of America news organizations "antagonistic media" and warned Iranian journalists and media activists to "seriously refrain" from "giving them interviews, engaging in news cooperation with them" and generally establishing "any contacts" with them.

Iran's official news agency IRNA yesterday quoted the press official to warn Iranian journalists and expressed his hope that the press and news community would "diligently confront" the "all-out battle launched by imperialist affiliated media" and thus dishearten it from its destructive activities."

The press official's statement also accused BBC Persian Service and Voice of America of "pursuing an inappropriate policy and position" towards Iran and of "publishing false reports and fake analysis on events in the Islamic republic." He asserted that the goal of these activities was to "destroy the realities taking place in the country and hurt the foundations of the Islamic regime."

The United States and Iran broke off diplomatic relations 32 years ago and are currently hostile towards each other. During this period relations between Britain and Iran also have been stormy and have repeatedly come to the brink of a complete rupture.

Officials of the Islamic republic view the BBC and VOA as government news agencies that threaten the national security of Iran and proclaim cooperation with them to be a crime.

Responding this statement, the head of BBC Persian Service and its website Jamshid Barzegar told Rooz, "This statement is another indicator of the restrictive practices prevalent in Iran that curtail freedom of speech, and the free flow of information and news. Such steps are the continuation of other efforts similar actions such as blocking news sites like the BBC, or the jamming of satellite television broadcasts."

Barzegar said he doubted such actions would succeed in curtailing the free flow of information and added, "Just as we saw that during the post-2009 presidential events in Iran, Iranians were not only willing to inform others about what was going on in their country, but have been as eager to learn about what is going on in other parts of the world. It is natural for them to utilize domestic and other media for these purposes."

Regarding the opposition of the Iranian government to allow a BBC Persian Service office to be opened in Iran, and the expulsion of Jon Leyne, a BBC correspondent in Tehran, along with a number of other international journalists from the country in the aftermath of the 2009 elections two years ago Barzegar said that the work of the BBC was completely transparent and open.

Responding to the question on why Iranian officials were negative towards the BBC, Barzegar said, "Unfortunately there is such a view, but it has no bearing on the BBC's professional, free, fair and accurate work. We have repeatedly announced our readiness to interview officials of the Islamic republic who have refrained from doing this."

At the height of the election crisis in 2009, Iran's ministry of Islamic Guidance had issued a similar statement accusing the BBC of establishing contacts with "sick" individuals. It called the contacts "suspicious and indefensible."

Before the launching of BBC Persian Service Television, Iran's then minister of Islamic Guidance had publicly said that the service was a "threat to the national security" of the country. He had also warned that appropriate measures would be taken against it.

At that time, the Ministry of Guidance had warned Iranian journalists and media activists to be cautious about requests for cooperation by foreign media. Prior to the 2009 presidential elections, even though restrictions existed for foreign journalists in Iran, many could carry on their professional activities in specific fields. The BBC is among those news agencies that had a presence in Iran prior to the 2009 election crisis.

During the massive demonstrations that followed the disputed official election results in 2009, foreign journalists were at one time banned from venturing out into streets to cover the demonstrations and were officially confined to remain inside their offices.

Since 2005 when Ahmadinejad was first elected president, hundreds of journalists in Iran have lost their jobs because the publications they worked for were shut. During the last 3 years, some of these journalists have been offered work by foreign news agencies.

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