Six independent filmmakers have been detained in Iran, the BBC said Monday, describing it as an attempt to pressure the international broadcaster over its coverage of the country's clerical regime.
The BBC said the group consisted of Iranian documentary filmmakers, adding that while the BBC's Farsi-language service had bought the rights to their films in the past, it had not commissioned their work.
Iranian media did not report the detainees' full names, and the BBC didn't identify them either. But Iran has clamped down hard on media outlets in the wake of its disputed 2009 presidential election, arresting a slew of journalists, bloggers and others.
While the filmmakers aren't staffers, senior BBC official Liliane Landor said the broadcaster considered the detentions to be "part of ongoing efforts by the Iranian government to put pressure on the BBC for the impartial and balanced coverage of its Persian-language TV of events in Iran and the wider region."
Earlier Monday, Iranian state television reported that authorities had arrested five people for working for BBC Persian, alleging that the group was providing the London-based broadcaster with what it described as negative news reports on Iran.
There was no immediate way to reconcile the conflicting numbers.
Iran's authoritarian theocracy is strongly opposed to the channel, which it accuses, along with the British government, of fomenting the mass protests that broke out after the disputed election.
The country has gone to great lengths to jam broadcasts and block websites of foreign-based Farsi-language media, including BBC Persian and Voice of America.
The timing of the arrests wasn't made clear, although it appeared to follow Sunday's broadcast by the BBC Persian service of a documentary on Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has final say on all state matters in Iran.