Iranian journalist defects while on Scandinavian tour with Zarif

Amir Towhid Fazel
The Free Iranian Staff

Amir Towhid Fazel
Amir Towhid Fazel

An Iranian journalist, Amir Tohid Fazel, who was accompanying Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on his Scandinavian tour, refused to return to Iran and has sought asylum in Sweden, according to  Kayhan daily, the newspaper close to the Supreme Leader. Kayhan called Fazel a“traitor.”
Fazel, worked for Iran’s Moj news agency and had previously worked for the official Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA).
Moj’s editor-in-chief, Amir Mortazavi, told the Iranian news site Ensaf News on Saturday: “He was a political editor at the agency and was sent to Sweden with the Foreign Ministry.”
The Islamic regime’s Foreign Ministry has not, as of yet issued any official responses to reports of Fazel not returning to Iran.
“Everyone has the right to make decisions for their own life. No one knows what the future holds. Only the narrow-minded speak about things about which they know nothing,” Fazel tweeted on Saturday, not confirming nor denying the news about him seeking asylum in Sweden.

Fazel then retweeted two tweets by prominent anti-regime Iranian journalist Ali Javanmardi. The first one read: “The political editor of Mowj news agency, is with the people. Amir Towhis Fazel accompanied Javad Zarif, the Islamic regime’s Foreign Minister called upon the Islamic regime to be released and announced that he is joining the Iranian people.”

Javanmardi’s second tweet read: “Amir Tohid Fazel will soon address the Iranian people about this. The Islamic regime’s media outlets have no credibility in this regard. #ThisRegimeIsOnItsWayOut” the tweet read.

BREAKING : BBC Accepts Iran’s Demand Of Blackout On Its Persian Sites Amid Regime’s Attacks On Press


A deal to not share reporting from Iran on BBC Persian has angered staffers who see it as complicity with a government that imprisons, tortures and kills journalists.

By Yashar Ali
Source: Huffington Post

The BBC has agreed to conditions set by the Islamic Republic of Iran to not share reporting materials it gathers in Iran with its Persian-language channel, BBC Persian, an internal email obtained by HuffPost reveals. The agreement represents a capitulation to a government that has been hostile to press freedom. The Iranian government routinely shuts down media organizations critical of the regime and imprisons, tortures and executes journalists.

The agreement was made with the Iranian government in exchange for Iran allowing a BBC correspondent into the country, and, according to emails that HuffPost obtained, it’s not the first time the British broadcaster has agreed to such terms.

The email, sent Saturday to all BBC Persian staff by a BBC Persian digital editor, said that BBC foreign correspondent Martin Patience and his team were in Iran “and due to leave on Sunday.”

The email goes on to say, “It is absolutely imperative that none of their material is run on BBC Persian TV, Radio or Online now or in the future. That includes any official BBC Persian social feed retweeting or forwarding the coverage. Please do not use the material and stories produced in Iran on any platform or in any format.”

It’s unclear who at the BBC agreed to the exclusivity terms.

In a statement sent to HuffPost, a BBC spokesperson acknowledged that it agreed to demands made by the Iranian government.

All international media are subject to reporting restrictions in Iran. We accepted some limitations on this occasion in order to provide our audiences with rare insights from inside the country and this is signposted in our coverage. As ever, the BBC maintains full editorial control over what we broadcast. These reports – our first from inside Iran in 5 years – do not change our unwavering commitment to our BBC Persian staff and their families, who have suffered completely unacceptable harassment from the Iranian authorities since 2009. 

An article published by the BBC on Monday with its reporting in Iran has a disclaimer that reads, “While in country, recording access was controlled ― as with all foreign media the team was accompanied by a government representative at all times,” but the report does not disclose that the broadcaster agreed to limit the distribution of its reporting.

In the past, foreign broadcasters have agreed to be accompanied by a government minder and be restricted in their movements and the people with whom they speak  in order to gain access to Iran, but the restrictions that the BBC agreed to, to not allow its Persian-language broadcasting service to share its reporting to over 100 million Persian-speaking people in the world, is unusual. It would be as if the New York Times agreed to a demand by the Chinese government to not to publish its reports in Mandarin. 

BBC Persian is a television, radio and digital service. It is seen as particularly dangerous by the Iranian government because it’s a Persian-language news organization that does not live under the same content restrictions as the government-controlled Persian-language news organizations.

Patience, the BBC’s Middle East correspondent who was allowed into Iran last week, tweeted on Sunday, the day he left:  “Today @BBCNews begins coverage from inside Iran. Rare access at key time. Some restrictions on our movements but not on what we are saying.” 

Patience, however, did not reveal that there was a restriction on with whom he could share what was being said, in this case with his own colleagues.  

Another email reviewed by HuffPost was sent among BBC colleagues in February. In it, they said that a BBC Arabic correspondent was allowed to enter Iran to cover the anniversary of the Iranian revolution “on the condition that his pictures will be ‘no access Persian [BBC].’” 

BBC Persian and its staffers have been subjected to attacks from both the current regime and during the reign of the shah. But the hostility toward BBC Persian escalated in 2009 when it launched a television channel and the Iranian government accused the BBC of fueling protests of the 2009 presidential elections, which had been rigged by the government in favor of then-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The protests, which were largely peaceful, led to widespread arrests, imprisonment, torture and the execution of Iranian citizens. 

In 2017, the Iranian government froze the assets of 152 current and former BBC Persian staff.  Iran also opened up a criminal investigation into the 152 individuals and accused them of a “conspiracy against national security.” BBC Persian staffers have been subjected to death threats by the Iranian government, haven’t been able to return to Iran for fear that they will be arrested, and their family members living within Iran have been subjected to harassment and threats from the Iranian government. 

In 2017, the BBC filed a complaint with the United Nations, stating, “This is not just a campaign against BBC Persian staff but against fundamental human rights, and the BBC calls on the government of Iran to end this legal action immediately,” Tony Hall, the director-general of the BBC said, at the time. 

This is not just a campaign against BBC Persian staff but against fundamental human rights, and the BBC calls on the government of Iran to end this legal action immediately Tony Hall, director-general of the BBC, to the U.N. in 2017

The complaint filed by the BBC said that, among other things, the sister of a BBC Persian journalist was detained at Iran’s notorious Evin prison for just over two weeks and that she was made to beg her sibling to resign her position at BBC Persian or agree to share information about her colleagues with the Iranian government. The complaint also said that elderly parents of BBC Persian staff members were held and interrogated by Iranian intelligence agencies.  The BBC, and two BBC Persian staffers who spoke to HuffPost, also said that BBC Persian staff members were subjected to false attacks on social media platforms. Some of the false attacks described sexual acts that are illegal in Iran and could lead to the staffers being charged with crimes and subjected to the death penalty. 

Both emails that HuffPost obtained and reviewed have angered BBC Persian staffers. Three sources who spoke to HuffPost on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak to members of the press about internal decisions at the BBC said they feel that the BBC is aiding in their persecution by the Iranian government.

In an email sent by a BBC Persian staffer to the entire BBC Persian office in February, provided to HuffPost by one of the recipients, the staffer said, in part, “No part of the BBC should allow itself to become an accomplice to the Iranian government’s effort to isolate and punish us. Our colleagues in the [BBC] Arabic Service risk becoming complicit in the Iranian persecution of our staff. They must avoid this at all costs so long as the Iranian government continues its campaign against us, which as you know has of late involved threats against our lives.”  

Iran ranks 170 out of 180 on the World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders, a nongovernmental organization based in Paris that advocates for press freedom around the globe. Reporters Without Borders says at least 860 journalists and citizen-journalists have been imprisoned or executed since the Iranian Revolution in 1979. 

Previous EU Needed Now to Lead on Press Protection

The U.S. is no longer the active leader in promoting press freedom as a vital pillar of democracy. The EU ought to fill this space.

By Frank Vogl

Source: The Globalist


Three bold numbers jumped out at me from the one-half page advertisement by the Stockholm Center for Freedom in the May 4 edition of The New York Times:

191 Turkish journalists are jailed, 167 are in exile and have arrest warrants out for them, and 34 foreign reporters are being targeted.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has jailed more reporters than have all the other current dictators combined. No doubt, his friend in the White House, President Donald Trump, is applauding.

As Erdogan faces mounting political opposition in Turkey, so it is likely that he will go even further to muzzle the media. Just a few days ago, six journalists who had been freed on appeal were jailed again on so-called “counter-terrorism” charges.

Record press jailings

President Trump delights in calling journalists “enemies of the people.” His ceaseless war on mainstream journalism is encouraging dictators across the globe.

The number of jailed journalist globally now stands at about 250. The “World Freedom Map,” published annually by Reporters Without Borders (RWB) has been getting progressively darker – the number of violations in 2018 was 11% greater than five years earlier.

Many of the journalists imprisoned and intimidated today, from Azerbaijan to Egypt to Venezuela, have had the temerity to report the truth about the massive corruption in the governments of their countries.

Trump has just invited Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban to visit the White House. I do not think the issue of suppressing the media – Orban is a grand master – will be on the agenda.

Maybe I am wrong — Trump would like nothing better to hit the “fake news” press and ensure that Fox News, now his official propaganda organ, enjoys greater influence.

Where is the leadership?

For many decades, the United States was the active leader in its international diplomatic efforts to promote press freedom as a vital pillar of democracy.

Trump and his State Department are, by contrast, sharp and constant critics of the press. The result is an acute leadership vacuum.

European leadership ought to fill this space, but to a considerable degree it has been reluctant to go beyond cautious diplomatic comments.

Yes, German Chancellor Angela Merkel was swift in calling for a full investigation by Saudi Arabia for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

To be sure, the Council of Europe is an important outspoken official voice of protest against the mounting harassment of reporters, but detailed reports have not had a major impact on the European Union’s Commission.

EU Commission’s role

Christophe Deloire, chief executive of RWB, looking at the forthcoming European Parliament elections, argues that the time has come to:

Make freedom of the press a core value of the EU, putting it at the heart of its treaties and institutions and at the forefront of today’s campaigns.

Tom Gibson of the Committee to Protect Journalists goes further in arguing that the issue of protecting journalists should be a priority for the leadership of the next EU Commission, which should develop:

a plan of action to build a favorable environment for independent and critical journalists.

The calls for EU leadership partly reflect concern that even dramatic events within the EU have not been able to secure effective and sustained Commission responses.

Murdered reporters

For example, there has still not been a meaningful investigation in Malta of the murder in October 2017 of journalist Daphne Galizia as she was investigating grand corruption in the Maltese government.

report on Malta by the Council of Europe four weeks ago concluded:

Certain institutions, such as the Permanent Commission Against Corruption, have not produced concrete results after 30 years of existence.

Maybe Slovakia’s new President Zuzana Čaputová can influence the EU’s leaders. She surprisingly won election a few weeks ago on an anti-corruption/press freedom platform, which responded to the largest public protests seen in her country since the end of Communism.

Those demonstrations were sparked by the murder of Ján Kuciak, a 27-year-old investigative reporter and Martina Kušnírová, his fiancée. Kuciak was investigating alleged corrupt dealings involving some of the country’s wealthiest businessmen and the government.

European Green Party co-chairs Monica Frassoni and Reinhard Bütikofer have made protecting the press part of their European Parliament campaign, noting:

Press freedom is our greatest guarantee against corruption and abuse and must be defended at all costs to protect basic human and civic rights.

Daily news

Meanwhile, almost every day sees a report of yet another effort by a government to curb the press.

I hear quite frequently from Azerbaijani journalist Emin Huseynov who lives in exile in Switzerland. For a long time, he was striving to build public pressure to get his brother, Mehman Huseynow — also a journalist — out of prison in Baku.

Eventually, in March, after two years in jail, he was released, but the government has imposed a strict travel ban on him, as well as on other reporters. He could be arrested again at any time.

In Iran, Mohammad Reza Nassab Abdollahi, Editor-in-Chief of Iranian news websites Anar Press and Aban Press was jailed for six months in 2018 for allegedly “spreading false statements.”

Two week ago, he was arrested again and his websites were closed down. The government of Iran has given no explanation.