BBC News makes do with half the story of US-Iran deal

An article originally published on the BBC News website on January 16th under the title “Four US prisoners freed in Iran” now appears with the headline “Jason Rezaian and three other US prisoners leave Iran” and all interim versions of the report had the words ‘ US prisoners’ in their titles.Rezaian art

The term “prisoners” is also used repeatedly in the body of the report to describe the four American-Iranians previously incarcerated by Iran. The article’s subject matter is described as “the prisoner exchange” and – revealingly – “what Iran calls a prisoner swap”.  

However, some may take issue with the BBC’s employment of that Tehran approved terminology.

“Iran released hostages, [it] did not free prisoners,” Emanuele Ottolenghi of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies commented on Twitter. “The US did not free prisoners, it released convicted felons. Don’t call this a prisoner swap.”

Whilst providing details of the charges levelled by Iran against three of the US hostages, the BBC’s report is remarkably less informative on the other side of the story.

“The United States said it was offering clemency to seven Iranians being held in the US for sanctions violation. […]

Of the seven Iranian citizens being released, six are also citizens of the US. The Iranian state news agency listed them as: Nader Modanlo, Bahram Mechanic, Khosrow Afghani, Arash Ghahreman, Tooraj Faridi, Nima Golestaneh and Ali Saboun.

They are all accused or convicted of violating US sanctions on Iran.”

The background to that opaque sentence is available at several sources, including the Washington Post.

“Joel Androphy, an attorney for one of the Iranians — Bahram Mechanic — said his client was offered a full pardon. Androphy also worked closely with the attorneys for two of the other men who were pardoned, Tooraj “Roger” Faridi, and Khosrow Afghahi.

The three men are Iranian American businessmen who were indicted last year and accused of illegally exporting microelectronics to Iran that could aid the country’s nuclear program. […]

Modanlo, a U.S. citizen born in Iran and living in Potomac, was sentenced in 2013 to eight years in prison for conspiring to illegally provide satellite-related services to Iran, in violation of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and the Iran trade embargo. Modanlo, then 52, was also convicted of money-laundering and obstruction of bankruptcy proceedings. […]

The seventh Iranian is Arash Ghahreman, 45, a naturalized U.S. citizen and former Iranian national who was convicted in April by a federal jury in San Diego of violations of U.S. export and money-laundering laws linked to his involvement in a scheme to purchase marine navigation equipment and military electronic equipment for illegal export to Iran.”

The BBC’s report is no less cagey on the additional facet to the deal.

“A further 14 Iranians sought by the US would be removed from an Interpol wanted list, the US and Iran said.”

The Tower reports that:

“Simultaneously, the State Department confirmed that “The United States also removed any Interpol red notices and dismissed any charges against 14 Iranians for whom it was assessed that extradition requests were unlikely to be successful.” Two of the red notice subjects are senior executives at Mahan Air, which the U.S. has accused of shipping arms to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corp, as well as the Lebanese Islamist organization Hezbollah and forces loyal to Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad.”

Clearly the BBC has failed to provide its audiences with the full range of information necessary for them to fully understand both halves of this story. 

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