Leading up to this Friday’s presidential election in Iran, which according to the BBC is “a contest devoid of opposition candidates,” reporters with Radio Farda — the Persian-language service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty — say they have encountered increased efforts by the Iranian government to intimidate them and their families.
“The harassment has intensified in the past several weeks, as the authorities take all possible precautions against anything that may challenge their control over the elections,” said Radio Farda Director Armand Mostofi, in a released statement from RFE/RL.
Radio Farda is produced in, and broadcast from, Prague in the Czech Republic. One of the few independent media voices that reaches the government-censored media environment of Iran, RFE/RL cited nine incidents last month that caused concern.
In these incidents, journalists’ families still living in Iran were interrogated about their relatives’ activity in Prague, and instructed to persuade them to either leave their jobs, or return to Iran to work covertly for Iranian intelligence. Mostofi said that the intimidation methods used by authorities indicate detailed knowledge of Radio Farda journalists’ relationships and activities, which indicate systematic surveillance of reporters’ families in Iran.
These attempts to interfere with Radio Farda are nothing new. Its broadcasts are routinely jammed, and journalists are reportedly subject to cyberattacks that include email hacking, harassment over social media and efforts to discredit them online, the release continued.
Each month, more than two million users inside Iran employ proxies to access Radio Farda’s website, which is blocked. Radio Farda and “Pasfarda,” its signature satire program, are active on social media, with a combined 538,000 Facebook fans. Radio Farda is an interactive service with weekly call-in shows and hundreds of listener emails and SMS messages every week.
Iranians tune in to satellite radio and shortwave to hear its programs.