BBC World Service has called on the Iranian authorities to reverse a new order which appears effectively to freeze the assets of BBC staff in Iran, preventing them from selling or buying property, cars and other goods.
BBC World Service Director Francesca Unsworth said: “We deplore what appears to be a targeted attack on BBC Persian staff, former staff, and some contributors. It is appalling that anyone should suffer legal or financial consequences because of their association with the BBC.

“We call upon the Iranian authorities to reverse this order urgently and allow BBC staff and former staff to enjoy the same financial rights as their fellow citizens.”

The BBC’s Persian Service is banned in Iran and BBC Persian staff and their families routinely face harassment and questioning from the authorities.

Reception of foreign TV and radio via privately-owned satellite dishes is banned in Iran, although there is widespread flouting of this rule. Dishes are often hidden on balconies and below rooftop parapets, as the image above from BBC Persian shows.

In July 2016, authorities seized and destroyed a reported 100,000 satellite dishes and receivers. According to media reports from Iran, General Mohammad Reza Naghdi, the head of Iran’s Basij militia, oversaw a destruction ceremony in Tehran after the equipment was confiscated and warned of the impact that satellite television was having in the country.

“The truth is that most satellite channels… deviate the society’s morality and culture,” AFP news agency reported him as saying. “What these televisions really achieve is increased divorce, addiction and insecurity in society.”

Naghdi claimed that a total of one million Iranians had already voluntarily handed over their satellite dishes to authorities. Iranian conservatives regularly denounce the channels as an attempt to corrupt Iranian culture and Islamic values and the police regularly raid neighbourhoods and confiscate dishes from rooftops. Under Iranian law those who distribute, use, or repair them can be fined up to $2,800.

Despite the ban on the BBC, the latest figures show the BBC World Service has an audience of 13m in Iran, making it BBC News’ seventh biggest market worldwide.