TEHRAN, Iran, (AP) – Iran’s intelligence chief expressed concerns about a new BBC Persian-language television channel launched Wednesday.
Iranian hard-liners have alleged the BBC wants to use the new channel to recruit “spies,” but the BBC has denied that.
“We don’t consider this channel to be appropriate for our security,” the official IRNA news agency quoted Intelligence Minister Gholam Hossein Mohseini Ejehi as saying. He said Iran would take “the necessary measures,” but did not give specifics.
Iran’s state broadcasting company is the only authorized body in the country to have radio and television channels.
No Western news stations in the Persian language are legally available to Iranians, but illegal satellite dishes dot Tehran’s skyline and many people watch foreign channels, including the Voice of America’s Persian Service broadcast from Los Angeles and Iranian opposition Persian-language channels.
The BBC has said the new channel would be seen in Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and most countries in the Persian Gulf through Hotbird and Telstar satellite and cable services. It also will be available in Britain.
BBC spokesman Mike Gardner last week said the only goal is to report on world events in an impartial and editorially independent manner. But he conceded that his company has a complex relationship with Iranian authorities.
Iran has refused to issue media accreditation to BBC Persian TV correspondents, saying the channel is not authorized to operate in Iran. But the broadcaster has a bureau in Tehran for its English-language service.
Last month, a prominent Iranian lawmaker accused the BBC of seeking to recruit, in collaboration with the British Embassy in Tehran, reporters in Iran as potential spies.
Mohammad Karim Abedi, a member of the Foreign Policy and National Security Committee of the Iranian parliament, said Iranian secret services have learned that the BBC was intent on setting up an intelligence network under the cover of journalistic activities.
The BBC has dismissed Iranian claims of espionage links.
BBC Persian TV is the broadcaster’s second foreign-language TV channel. It launched BBC Arabic last year. The company has also run a Persian-language radio service since 1940, and it operates a Persian-language news Web site.