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BBC Persian under fire for alleged homophobia

BBC Persian allegedly used derogatory language in Farsi to describe the gay community [Getty]

Date of publication: 8 January, 2021

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The BBC said it was investigating an allegation of homophobia against its Iranian service.

The BBC said Friday it was investigating a complaint by a prominent human rights campaigner in Britain who accuses its Iranian service of homophobia.

Peter Tatchell said he had contacted the BBC World Service after its Persian unit ran a blog that used derogatory language in Farsi to describe the gay community.

The post from October 2018 was amended last month after complaints, he said. But a video run on the BBC Persian TV station remains online, apparently mocking a Pride event in London in 2019.

"A freelance opinion piece has been updated with an acknowledgement on our website," a BBC spokesman told AFP.

"We will provide a full response to Mr Tatchell in due course," he said, declining to comment further.

The blog on the BBC Persian website was updated to say that previously "a word was used to refer to homosexual relations in the historical context of Iran that is not among the terms that BBC uses to describe sexual orientations, and was therefore inappropriate".

But in a letter to BBC bosses, Tatchell demanded a public apology and the dismissal of BBC Persian director Rozita Lotfi. 

He also pressed for an inquiry "into persistent allegations that BBC Persian is infiltrated by staff who are apologists or possibly agents for the Iranian dictatorship".

BBC Persian is banned in Iran and according to a report by UN experts last March, its expatriate staff have faced intimidation from the regime, including death threats against their Iranian-based relatives.

The London-based broadcasting company said at the time that there had been a "recent escalation in harassment" of BBC Persian staff and their families, coinciding with a crackdown on dissent within Iran.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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