Following an expose by the Peter Tatchell Foundation into the BBC Persian Service’s alleged homophobia, the head of the BBC World Service, Jamie Angus, has promised a full investigation.
The news comes as it was revealed over the weekend that the BBC Persian Service has used several derogatory and homophobic slurs to describe members of the LGBTQ+ community, with posts calling them ‘faggots’ and ‘an abomination’.
On a separate occasion, the site referred to ‘so called’ LGBT+ Pride and apparently attempted to out an Iranian interviewee live on air.
Speaking to London-based Iran International TV about the accusations, Peter Tatchell said: “Well, the BBC has already admitted that errors were made and they promised a full investigation. I got this assurance form Jamie Angus, head of the BBC World Service.
“Concerns are a number. It has been reported that on the BBC Persian website, in late December that they carried an article which referred to LGBTQ+ people in pejorative terms, and I understand that the rough equivalent in English of the Farsi language is the word faggot or poofter, so quite a negative, hostile and hateful slur.
“Then they also compared LGBTQ+ people to opium addicts and to people who have sex with their siblings. Again very very offensive, and it is also alleged that the word ‘abomination’ was used, again it was the Farsi equivalent.
“Now, I think it is quite extraordinary that the BBC does not have adequate monitoring controls in place to ensure that such language is not used, and that it took a public outcry by LGBTQ+ people in Iran to get the wording changed.
“There is also the question about the website, TV website, news report in July 2019 about LGBTQ+ pride, which many LGBTQ+ Iranian people found quite offensive and mocking.
“There is also an attempt by the interviewer to out someone as gay live on air, even though he wasn’t gay. Again these are serious issues about quite grave departures from the BBC’s normally high standards of ethics in journalism.”
Commenting on Tatchell’s interview, Iranian LGBT+ activist Shappi Khorsandi said: “Peter Tatchell is doing more against homophobia in Iranian community than we are ourselves. Or maybe I don’t know Iranian activists. Probably that. We Iranians don’t talk about homophobia. Please direct me to Iranian LGBTQ+ activists. Sorry this tweet is so serious.”
In Iran, the LGBTQ+ community face harassment, discrimination and death if found guilty of same-sex sexual activities.
Peter Tatchell is calling for an independent inquiry into the ‘administration, staffing, monitoring and content of the BBC Persian service’, querying whether ‘BBC Persian is infiltrated by staff who are apologists or possibly agents for the Iranian dictatorship.’