Last updated: 19 September, 2011

BBC: Iran detains six independent filmmakers

The BBC said Monday that Iran had detained six independent film makers whose work was screened by the broadcaster, but denied they were staff employees.

The BBC issued a statement after an Iranian state television website reported that the Islamic republic had arrested five men and a woman for gathering information for the BBC’s Farsi language service.

“The BBC is aware of reports in the Iranian media alleging that persons working for the BBC Persian service have been arrested in Iran,” the BBC statement said.

“The BBC would like to stress that the six filmmakers currently detained in Iran are not BBC staffers.

“The individuals in question are independent documentary filmmakers whose films have been screened in festivals and other venues internationally. As is common practice for the channel’s documentary showcase programme, BBC Persian television bought the rights to broadcast these films.”

Liliane Landor, controller of languages at BBC Global News, said the films had not been commissioned by the BBC and accused Iran of trying to intimidate the broadcaster following attempts to jam the service.

“We consider this to be part of ongoing efforts by the Iranian government to put pressure on the BBC for the impartial and balanced coverage of its Persian-language TV of events in Iran and the wider region,” Landor said.

She expressed concern about the situation of the filmmakers, saying: “Our thoughts are with the filmmakers and their families.”

An Iranian state television website — citing an informed source who identified the detainees by their initials M.M.T., M.Z., N.S., H.A., M.Sh. and Miss K.Sh. — said the arrests were carried out on Saturday night.

“These identified individuals were providing the BBC Farsi with information, films, and secret reports to paint a black picture of Iran and Iranians,” the website reported.

Iran’s Culture Minister Mohammad Hosseini confirmed that the country’s “intelligence and security apparatus” had detained several people, ISNA news agency reported.