In late January and early February, Iranian Security officers raided the offices of reformist publications Bahar, Shargh, Arman, Etemad, and Aseman Weekly and arrested about 20 journalists who were working inside Iran. The wave of new arrests targets mainly young journalists who are affiliated with the very few remaining reformist papers.
The semi official Fars news Agency which is close to Iranian ideological armed forces IRGC, wrote on 28 January, “It is said that those detained had connections and had been working with Persian-language counterrevolutionary media outlets and Persian media abroad.”
It is also mentioned that the detainees are close to “the plotters," a term that Iranian regime uses to describe its opponents.
The detained journalists were very soon accused of working for BBC network. Tehran Times, a Tehran based English news paper which is considered an official governmental newspaper wrote, “The Intelligence Ministry issued a statement late on Wednesday saying the arrested journalists were part of network which had established contacts with the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).
The network was formed by utilizing the experiences that it gained during the unrest that followed the 2009 presidential election, the ministry said.”
BBC denied any link and mentioned the charges unfounded. The network has repeatedly stated that they have no employees in Tehran.
In January 30 the Iranian security and intelligence ministry insisted,” This process will continue until the last individual affiliated with this network is investigated,” Fars reported, “During the trend of investigations, the other individuals linked to the (BBC-led) network of psychological operations were summoned and interrogated and also a number of others who were not aware of the nature of the network were also called in and were briefed about the covert goals and ill intentions of the network," said the statement which was the third since the Intelligence Ministry embarked on detaining a number of reporters last month to investigate their suspicious connection with the BBC and some other western-led media.”
Tehran has always accused BBC of operating as a cover for British intelligence and for hosting Iranian dissidents. Fars also mentions that “The network was run by the British government's psychological operations organization (known as the BBC) in cooperation with several western governments and used a multilayer, extensive and well-equipped structure and very special methods of communications for sending its reports", adding that the BBC and its western co-conspirators used the experience they had gained in the post-election unrests in Iran in June 2009 to better run the network.
Iran has taken a hard line on journalists and bloggers in recent years, following the crackdown on the massive protests that took place over the disputed 2009 election.
Committee to Protect Journalists mentions it is also reported that authorities have repeatedly harassed relatives of the staff of BBC Persian service, attempting to intimidate them into halting their family members from reporting critically on Iran.
Iran has maintained a revolving-door policy for imprisoning journalists, freeing some detainees on furloughs even as they make new arrests. In 2012, CPJ (Committee to Protect Journalists) ranked the country the world's second-worst jailer of journalists with 45 journalists imprisoned in reprisal for their work.
In another reaction, more than 200 Iranian journalists inside and outside the country issued a statementasking the Iranian judicial authorities to release their colleagues and to respect the law.