Last updated: 25 September, 2011

More people summoned in Iran for BBC ties

Iran said Sunday it has summoned “more people” for their alleged links to the BBC’s Farsi service, more than a week after it said six were arrested suspected of gathering information for the channel.

“Important information has been obtained about those cooperating with and linked to BBC Farsi, and the ministry has summoned more people linked to this so-called media,” Intelligence Minister Heydar Moslehi was quoted by the state television website as saying.

There was no mention of how many people were called in.

“The British intelligence services have started new destructive and anti-Iranian activities under cover of BBC Farsi,” Moslehi added, repeating that “any direct or indirect collaboration is prohibited” with the channel.

On September 17, media announced the arrests of five men and a woman for allegedly gathering information for the BBC’s Farsi service, but identified them only by their initials.

They were reported as having been detained for “providing the BBC Farsi (service) with information, films and secret reports to paint a black picture of Iran and Iranians.”

Iranian opposition websites named the six as Mojtaba Mirtahmasb, co-director of banned film-maker Jafar Panahi’s latest film, Nasser Saffarian, Hadi Afariden, Shahnama Bazdar, Katayoun Shahabi and Mohsen Shahnazdar.

“Iranian documentary film-makers are not allowed to sell their films to channels hostile to the Islamic republic,” a ministry official in charge of supervising cinematic work was quoted by Fars news agency as saying on Sunday.

Iran’s House of Cinema, the country’s motion pictures guild, has criticised the arrests, issuing a statement carried by some local media that “there was no law to prohibit the sale of film to foreign television” stations.

The BBC Farsi service, accused by the regime of fuelling unrest following the disputed 2009 re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, does not have an office in Iran.

Tehran prohibits cooperation with Farsi broadcasters that and are not controlled by the regime, including the BBC and the Voice of America which are very popular in Iran.

Satellite channels are also routinely scrambled by the authorities.