BBC staff being persecuted by the Iranian government

At the Labour Party Conference last week I attended, on behalf of LCHR, a private briefing hosted by the BBC World Service.

From within the UK, it is easy to forget what an enormous organisation the BBC World Service is. It has a weekly global audience of over 347 million people, and provides independent and impartial news, information and analysis in over 43 languages.

The topic of the briefing was the steps that the BBC World Service is taking to try to combat ‘fake news’ around the world, particularly in countries that have important elections next year such as India and Nigeria. We should all be proud of the efforts that the BBC is making on this front – proving once again that the BBC is a national treasure, and a great projection of positive British values around the world.

During the course of the briefing the discussion turned to BBC Persian, which is the Persian language news channel broadcasting to the Persian-speaking population in Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. The Iranian government has long disliked foreign news channels, and has a history of hacking, censoring and satellite jamming. Despite these efforts, BBC Persian audience figures have grown rapidly from 3.1 million in 2012 to 13 million today (over a fifth of the Iranian population).

BBC Persian has 152 Iranian staff, all of whom are based in London. Since the BBC started broadcasting into Iran in 2009, these brave journalists and their families have been subjected to a campaign of harassment and intimidation – from death threats to travel bans. They are all unable to return home for fear of arrest (or worse), and over 30 of them have lost parents in Iran and been unable to attend their funerals.

However, last year the Iranian authorities ramped up the pressure and initiated a mass criminal investigation against all BBC Persian staff in London, accusing them of “conspiracy against national security“. They have also been subject to an asset-freezing injunction, preventing them from selling or buying property, cars and other goods.

The BBC has called on the UK government to help, and filed an urgent appeal to the United Nations. The former Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, said that he would make representations to his Iranian counterpart, and the UN Secretary General called on Iran to cease its legal action. Yet these calls appear to have fallen on deaf ears.

Just last month, Iran’s news agency issued a terrifying statement about the journalists, describing them as a “mafia gang associated with the joint psychological operations HQ of overthrowing the system of the Islamic Republic” and claiming that they “will surely be exposed one day before the Iranian nation, and God’s hand of justice will manifest itself through the arms of the Iranian people, and they will be punished for their actions“.

This is a dramatic escalation in the sort of language used against the BBC Persian staff, and suggests the Iranian authorities will not be easing the pressure any time soon. Indeed, the recent attack on a military parade in the south of the country has further exacerbated Tehran’s suspicions of the West, and the UK was explicitly named by the government as having hosted the terrorist group which carried out the attack.

LCHR will continue to raise awareness of the treatment of BBC Persian staff and their families, and will work with Labour MPs to try to make this a priority human rights and foreign policy issue. The BBC World Service is something we should all be proud of, and we will stand alongside their staff in the face of persecution and abuse.

 

Labour Party Conference 2018

We are hosting a joint fringe event with Amnesty International at the Labour Party Conference in Liverpool this year.

Violence Against Women Activists: Defending the Defenders

Thousands of brave human rights activists face persecution and violence around the world – and often the worst of it is directed at women. Just last month, Saudi Arabia announced that it would seek to execute Israa al-Ghomgham, a female human rights activist, for “providing moral support to rioters”. This story is repeated all over the world.

In support of Amnesty International’s Human Rights Defenders campaign, we will be co-hosting a panel discussion about violence against women activists and how we can defend against this.

Date: Tuesday 25th September
Time: 1:00pm
Location: Concourse Room 3, ACC Liverpool, Kings Dock, Liverpool,
L3 4FP

Speakers:

  • Kate Osamor MP (Shadow Secretary of State for International Development)
  • Owen Jones (Journalist)
  • Kate Allen (Director, Amnesty International UK)
  • Idil Eser (Former Director, Amnesty International Turkey)

With more speakers to be announced.

For further details see here

We hope to see you there!

Would you like to volunteer for LCHR?

LCHR is looking for six new volunteers to help us run the organisation and our upcoming campaigns. The volunteers will form LCHR’s managing committee, and we are looking for a Secretary, Membership Officer, Communications Officer, Fundraising Officer, Events Officer, and Campaigns Officer. Each officer will have role-specific responsibilities, as well as being involved with our campaigning work.

Responsibilities (depending on the specific volunteer role) include:

• Liaising with MPs, peers, and their support staff;

• Writing articles and briefings;

• Running our social media channels;

• Producing a regular newsletter;

• Organising events; and

• Carrying out fundraising activities.

Ideal candidates will have:

• A keen interest in human rights and politics;

• Excellent interpersonal and communication skills, including writing skills;

• A good understanding of the Labour Party; and

• Support the Labour Campaign for Human Rights and our mission.

Hours are flexible and the role is primarily home-based, although candidates will ideally be based in London for meetings and events. Around 2-3 hours per week commitment is typical by not required.

If you are interested in applying, please send a CV and short cover note to Matthew Turner at matthew.turner@lchr.org.uk by 31 August 2018. 

We will acknowledge every application, and will aim to contact successful applicants by 1st September 2018. Interviews will take place w/c 3rd September or 27th / 28th September (with some flexibility if necessary).

You can find out more information here: http://www.w4mpjobs.org/JobDetails.aspx?jobid=67389.

 

Introducing LCHR’s new Chair and Executive Director

Mathew Turner_Hi_Env02LCHR is pleased to announce that Matthew Turner has been appointed as Chair and Executive Director.

Matthew is a commercial solicitor with a broad experience of public interest and human rights work. He has spent a year in Texas defending death row inmates, worked in the legal team at Liberty, and volunteered for a wide range of human rights charities.

I am delighted to be taking up this role and leading such an important and meaningful campaign. Human rights have been constantly under attack in recent years, and LCHR has a big task to promote and protect them within the Labour movement, the UK and beyond. I want to build on the excellent work that Andrew has done over the years, and make sure that human rights are always at the heart of Labour Party policy.”

LCHR wants to thank Andrew Noakes for his hard-work and dedication over the years. Andrew grew LCHR from a handful of volunteers five years ago into the powerful and high-profile campaign that it is today. He will continue to serve on the board of directors for the time being to ensure a smooth transition.

LCHR’s volunteers

The Labour Campaign for Human Rights is a small, not-for-profit organisation. In the past, we have been fortunate to benefit from some funding that allowed us to take on paid campaigners, including a paid intern. However, we are presently a voluntary group only, meaning we’re run entirely by volunteers. Our organisation also began this way.
 
We offer opportunities for people who want to get involved in political campaigning to contribute to our activities on a voluntary basis. Such opportunities are designed to be carried out in their spare time, and most of our volunteers work jobs, internships, or study while contributing to our campaigns as and when they can. All volunteers are free to come and go as they please, contributing as much or as little as they wish for whatever period of time they want. Though our adverts often note that 2-3 hours per week is a typical contribution, this isn’t binding and many contribute less or more depending on their own time and preferences. All volunteers contribute remotely, except for any meetings or events they wish to attend. Sometimes, we look for volunteers who are interested in particular kinds of activities, such as digital campaigning or grassroots activism, and we advertise for specific voluntary roles on this basis. However, these roles are governed by the same flexible approach as above. None of our voluntary roles carry the promise of future employment. We do not offer any form of unpaid employment.
 
The political blog, Guido Fawkes, published an article on 4 June that claimed the Labour Campaign for Human Rights is using unpaid interns to aid our campaigning activities. This article conflates the issue of unpaid internships – unpaid, structured work akin to employment – with genuine political engagement carried out as a spare-time activity. There are thousands of clubs, societies, charities, blogs, and small campaigning groups like ours that are run mostly or entirely by volunteers. Political parties also benefit from thousands of volunteers who want to make a contribution in the world of politics. These voluntary activities are vital to our civic and political life and we defend them robustly as an essential feature of our participatory democracy, just as we robustly oppose unpaid employment.

Are you interested in leading LCHR?

LCHR’s longstanding Chair and Executive Director, Andrew Noakes, is standing down from the day-to-day running of LCHR in June. We are now searching for someone to replace him as head of our organisation, occupying the position of Chair. This is a voluntary role to be carried out in the successful candidate’s spare time.

The Chair will lead on all aspects of LCHR’s work, including strategy, campaigning, policy, organisational tasks, and fundraising. They will be free to appoint their own committee of volunteer officers to assist them in these areas.

This is a rare opportunity to take the helm of a well-known and effective human rights organisation that campaigns for change within and beyond the Labour Party.

Please note, the successful candidate will receive mentoring from LCHR’s board of directors to help them understand their role and responsibilities.

To apply, please send your CV and cover letter to Andrew Noakes at andrew.noakes@lchr.org.uk. If you have any questions about the role prior to applying, you’re also welcome to email these over.

The deadline for applications is 7 June.

Please note: as a voluntary role, the hours for this position are flexible and the successful candidate will be free to fit the role around their other responsibilities.

Standing down from LCHR

A message from our founder and Executive Director, Andrew Noakes:

Dear friends,

I’m writing to let you know that I’ll be standing down as Executive Director of the Labour Campaign for Human Rights at the end of this month.

It’s been my honour to lead this organisation since its inception five years ago. Back then, we were just a handful of volunteers looking to get involved in the Labour Party and make a difference for human rights. I never imagined that, five years later, LCHR could be what it is now. I’m proud of everything we’ve achieved.

It’s time for someone new to take LCHR forward, reinvigorating our organisation with new leadership and new ideas. My successor will be appointed by the board of directors after an open recruitment and selection process. Look out for the advert in the next few days. I will continue to serve on the board of directors for an interim period to ensure a smooth transition.

Thanks for all your support over the last five years, and here’s to many more years of LCHR flourishing and being a force for good.

Best,

Andrew Noakes