London, Asharq Al-Awsat—Staff at the BBC’s Persian service in London are being subjected to a smear campaign courtesy of online hackers linked to the Islamic republic, the UK’s Guardian Newspaper reported.
According to the report, Iran has been running a smear campaign in an effort to intimidate and silence exiled Iranian journalists. The harassment includes; death threats, fabricated news attributed to the BBC journalists, and false allegations of sexual misconduct, while harassment of family members in Iran has spiked significantly.
Recently, the Islamic republic’s Cyber-activists set up a number of fake Facebook accounts and blogs, alleging to belong to BBC journalists. The fake site is identical to the BBC’s in design and format.
According to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, the Islamic republic is among the world leaders in jailing journalists. With 45 journalists and bloggers behind bars, Iran has sustained a crackdown that began after the disputed 2009 presidential election.
In November of last year, Iranian blogger Sattar Beheshti—who was arrested for being critical of the government in Teheran—died several days after being detained by the Islamic republic’s Cyber police. In a blog post a day before his arrest, Beheshti wrote, “They threatened me yesterday and said, ‘Your mother will soon wear black because you don’t shut your big mouth'”.
Beheshti’s death caused international uproar which led to the dismissal of the commander of Iran’s cybercrimes police unit.