At a side event to the session on March 17, serious concerns were raised regarding Iran's significant increase in threats directed towards BBC News Persian and Deutsche Welle staff since September 2022.
Escalating risks to journalists reporting on Iran from outside the country were discussed with State missions to the United Nations in Geneva.
Head of DW Persian Service, Yalda Zarbakhch, said at the event: "We are extremely concerned about the safety of our staff at DW Persian working in Germany and their families living in Iran. Since DW has been put on the sanctions list by the Iranian government, classifying journalists as terrorists for doing their legitimate work, we have seen a new level of threats. Family members are brought in sometimes daily by the authorities for interrogations. Pressure on our staff is constant. DW urges to recognize the paramount importance of independent reporting out of Iran and for the Iranian people, and that the safety of journalists and the freedom of the media is non-negotiable."
Caoilfhionn Gallagher KC and Jennifer Robinson, counsel for BBC World Service, stated: "The targeting of BBC journalists by Iran is unlawful and designed to stifle and censor independent and objective reporting on events in Iran. The death threats, arbitrary detention of family members and economic sanctions imposed on BBC News Persian journalists violate international law and should be condemned in the strongest possible terms. Iran's targeting and harassment of journalists inside and outside of Iran has now spread beyond that directed at BBC News Persian, underlining the need for urgent action from the UN and UN member states."
Jeremy Dear, IFJ Deputy General Secretary, stressed in a video address the need for the special rapporteurs to understand the societal impact of the Iranian regime's action in denying citizens, at home and abroad, the right to independent information. "But also governments in the UK, Germany and other countries need to take more seriously too the threats to journalists and their families." He pledged "the IFJ's continued support for all those journalists at risk until they can report freely from London, from Bonn, or from Tehran."
The threats and attempts to intimidate employees of the DW Persian service have been going on for years. DW employees and their relatives have repeatedly been interrogated when entering or leaving the country for family visits. Since the protests began in September 2022, Iran has been increasing the pressure on journalists living abroad. Agents working for the regime have contacted people in Iran who follow a DW employee on Instagram. The people were told both on the phone and during interrogations to unfollow the account if they want to avoid reprisals against themselves and against their relatives. Our employee was referred to as an enemy of the state during some of the interrogations. Enemies of the state receive the death penalty in Iran.
DW's Persian service reporting in Farsi achieved from September 2022 until February 2023 a monthly average of 58,5 Million Page Impressions on all platforms. This represents an increase in reach of 326% since the start of the protests. The service publishes on its website, as well as relevant social media platforms. DW Persian has 1.7 mln followers on Instagram and 1.2 mln followers on Twitter.