BBC is backing election riots, claims Iran

(GUARDIAN)   The Iranian foreign ministry has accused the BBC and Voice of America of being mouthpieces of their respective governments and seeking to engineer the ongoing riots that followed the presidential election.

Another Iranian ministry also threatened to take “more stern action” against British radio and television networks if they “continued to interfere” in the country’s domestic affairs.

The tough talking from the Iranian authorities comes after Jon Leyne, the BBC’s permanent correspondent in Iranwas expelled from the country yesterday and reports circulated that more journalists had been arrested.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Paris-based Reporters Without Borders released the names of 24 journalists and bloggers arrested since the disputed Iranian presidential election earlier this month.

Speaking at a news conference today, Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Hassan Qashqavi said the BBC and Voice of America, the US government’s overseas broadcaster, had been given guidelines on their coverage of the continuing protests against the re-election of the president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

“They [the BBC and the VOA] are the mouthpiece of their government’s public diplomacy,” the BBC quoted Qashqavi as saying.

“They have two guidelines regarding Iran. One is to intensify ethnical and racial rifts within Iran and secondly to disintegrate the Iranian territories. Any contact with these channels, under any pretext or in any form, means contacting the enemy of the Iranian nation.

“How can they say they are unbiased when their TV channel is like a war headquarters and in fact they are blatantly commanding riots. Therefore their claims are absolutely wrong. Their governments have ratified decisions so that they can act in this way.”

The Iranian authorities have taken a markedly more hostile approach to foreign media in recent days.

Today the Times reported Qashqavi saying that contact with the BBC or Voice of America “runs against Iranian national sovereignty and is considered as an act of enmity towards the Iranian nation”.

Yesterday, the country’s ministry of culture and Islamic guidance accused British media of unethical behaviour and warned that further involvement with its domestic affairs would bring a response.

“If various British radio and television networks continue to interfere in our country’s domestic affairs by broadcasting fake and incorrect reports of Iran or ignoring international journalism ethics, there will be more stern action taken,” the ministry was reported as saying yesterday by the Times.

These fresh protestations follow an announcement on Friday by the BBC World Service that it was attempting to combat continued broadcast interference from within Iran by increasing the number of satellites it usesto transmit its Persian television news service and extending the channel’s hours.

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