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Objection to untruthful reporting by BBC Persian and request for correction

To:

BBC Director General
BBC Persian Director

On December 14, 2018, a Q & A session was held at the Washington Institute for the Near East Policy, titled “Forty Years After the Islamic Republic: What’s Next?” with Prince Reza Pahlavi. During the meeting and in response to the host’s question as to how President Donald Trump’s administration can better assist Iranian democratic movement, Reza Pahlavi underscored the role of the media. “One thing that could certainly be helpful,” said Reza Pahlavi, “is to tell all these media that are supposedly broadcasting programs to Iran to take the Hippocratic oath; meaning first do no harm.”

“These are agencies that American taxpayers and British taxpayers have been funding but basically have been heavily penetrated by reformist elements that are basically there to support the regime”, he continued.

The Persian section of the BBC provided the correct translation of the speech in its first report, which was broadcasted on December 15th. However, hours later, BBC Persian correspondent Kasra Naji presented on his Twitter account a distorted translation of the remarks, claiming that Reza Pahlavi has called reformist journalists Iran’s “regime infiltrators” and that he has demanded their “removal” from the media that are run by the U.S. and British taxpayers. He then accused Reza Pahlavi of touting “inquisition” and said his statements went against all journalists and democracy. Kasra Naji’s aforementioned tweet and his distorted translation of Reza Pahlavi’s remarks instigated strong rebuke from groups of Iranian twitter users. At the same time, however, the very same tweet was picked up by several BBC-Persian and few other journalists and retweeted hundreds of times within the span of few hours, and before long this fabrication was established as “fact” in the minds of many.

As an illustration of the absurdity of this process, Kasra Naji’s tweet, itself a distorted translation of Reza Pahlavi’s remarks from English to Persian, was translated back into English, with all the distortion intact, by Farnaz Fassihi, a Wall Street Journal reporter. Then, Negar Mortazavi, another U.S. based journalist picked up Farnaz Fassihi’s English translation of Kasra Naji’s fabrication and translated it back into Persian as a Wall Street Journal reporter “perspective”. This was then retweeted by another BBC-journalist, Negin Shiraqayi, and presented again as the perspective of a Wall Street Journal reporter. This tweet was later retweeted by Kasra Naji.

As if this circus was not enough, Kasra Naji’s distortion found its way to the BBC Persian website an hour later. The posted report, the link of which is made available at the end of this letter, claims that Reza Pahlavi demanded a purge of reformist journalists from the Persian-language media abroad, a deceptive reporting which conflicts with the original translation of the BBC Persian report from the event. Kasra Naji continued this distortion in the BBC Persian broadcast Sixty Minute that same night. During the broadcast, which featured a debate between a member of Farashgard as a supporter of Reza Pahlavi and an opponent of Reza Pahlavi, the host Kasra Naji made the same false claim repeatedly and even went as far as asking one of the guests whether he also agreed that Reza Pahlavi should apologize for his remarks! Aside from the unprofessional and lopsided moderation of the debate, the repeated elevation of such falsehoods in the most watched broadcast of BBC Persian-language service further helped spread the lie that was originated by the same host.

As the founding members of Farashgard, we expect nothing less than BBC Persian’s adherence to highest standards of journalistic integrity and therefore demand unequivocal retraction of the above referenced reporting and issuance of an apology on the very same platforms the claim was originally reported and propagated. These platforms include BBC Persian’s website, Sixty Minutes program, and BBC Persian’s social media feeds and sites. We also expect the BBC Persian reporters that echoed this false reporting to do same on their personal Twitter accounts and admit their reporting was a distortion of Reza Pahlavi’s remarks.

We hope BBC Persian would address our concerns in a satisfactory and timely manner. At the same time, we are pursuing other options including filing a complaint with Ofcom or legal remedies should it not be the case.

 

Farashgard

12/22/2018

 

BBC’s original report from the event with the correct translation of Prince Reza Pahlavi’s remarks.

https://twitter.com/bbcpersian/status/1074018621376983040

 

Kasra Naji’s distorted translation of Reza Pahlavi’s remarks. https://twitter.com/BBCKasraNaji/status/1074069921594781697

 

A translation of Kasra Naji’s tweet from Persian to English by Farnaz Fassihi of Wall Street Journal.

https://twitter.com/farnazfassihi/status/1074144777749315584

 

Translation of the distorted translation of Reza Pahlavi’s remarks which retweeted by Kasra Naji and Negin Shir Aghai, both BBC Persian reporters.

https://twitter.com/NegarMim/status/1074382555892338688

 

BBC Persian report where the distorted remarks are repeated.

https://twitter.com/bbcpersian/status/1074386254303641600

 

The first and second sections of debate in BBC Persian – 60 Minutes program where the distorted remarks are repeated by Kasra Naji  

https://twitter.com/bbcpersian/status/1074386254303641600

https://twitter.com/bbcpersian/status/1074387238941675520

2019-01-14T23:50:48+00:00