Iran arrests BBC Persian service journalist: report

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An Iranian reporter believed to be working for the BBC Persian service has been arrested for "spreading lies and disrupting public minds," local media reported on Monday.

Fars News agency said "Hassan Fathi who in the past days talked to BBC Persian confirming Zionist claims against Iran was arrested."

Fathi is accused of "spreading lies and disrupting public minds."

"The BBC in recent days has talked with this person as their correspondent in Tehran and the information available shows that he is the official reporter of this illegal network," the Fars report added.

Iran bans any cooperation with foreign radio and television networks that broadcast in Persian, including the BBC and the Voice of America.

The BBC Persian service issued a statement on Monday rejecting the claim that the network has a correspondent in Tehran.

"BBC Persian has no employee nor correspondent in Iran and the service interviewed Mr Hassan Fathi as an independent analyst," read the statement posted on their website.

In September, Iran arrested several filmmakers for making contributions to the BBC Persian service. Five of them have been released on bail.

Iranian officials accused them of "collaborating" with the BBC Persian service -- whose broadcasts are often scrambled in the Islamic republic -- with an aim to "paint a black picture of Iran."

The BBC says they were not staff or commissioned workers but rather independent filmmakers whose films had appeared on its Persian service.

Last month, the BBC alleged Iranian authorities were harassing relatives of its London-based Iranian employees.

After the filmmakers were arrested, Intelligence Minister Heydar Moslehi accused British spy agencies of launching "new destructive and anti-Iranian activities under cover of BBC Farsi."

Iranian officials have accused the BBC of fuelling the unrest that broke out following the controversial 2009 re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

© 2011 AFP

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