A number of people have been arrested for working with the Persian BBC, Iran’s intelligence ministry confirmed today.

Iranian media report that a ministry announcement states: “We have identified and arrested elements of an illegal network that was collaborating with the British government’s state broadcasting agency, known as the BBC, and was supplying information to the beaten colonial spying service and worked to provide news and propaganda themes for the enemy’s experts, who are waging a psychological war against Iran and Islam.”

The announcement does not indicate the number of detainees but contends that they were engaged in “underground and illegal activities in exchange for exorbitant sums of money through secret channels and complex methods of money laundering used by secret agencies.”

The ministry adds that it is pursuing more suspects and calls on the Iranian media to refrain from publishing uncorroborated news.

A few days ago, Iran’s Young Reporters Club, which is linked to the state broadcasting agency Seda-va-Sima and the Central News Agency reported that a number of “BBC collaborators” were arrested in Iran. They went on to list the initials of six individuals connected to the case.

Today, the Jaras opposition website reported that Nasser Saffarian, an Iranian documentary maker and film critic, is amongst the detainees.

Yesterday, Minister of Culture and Guidance Mohammad Hosseiny confirmed the arrest of a number of documentary filmmakers for collaborating with the BBC.

Hosseiny accused the BBC of fomenting the election protests in 2009 and said: “We can’t strengthen a broadcasting agency that works against the Islamic Republic of Iran and the interests of the country, and our friends must take greater care in their activities.”

The BBC has also issued a statement, saying it has never employed any of the detainees.

The BBC says the detainees are independent filmmakers whose works have been released at various international events, and the BBC has bought rights to air them. The broadcaster insists that the films were made independently and were not commissioned by the BBC.

The head of Persian BBC has also rejected the statements from Iranian authorities, emphasizing that no one in Iran is collaborating with the broadcaster.

The BBC’s language service chief, Liliane Landor, said the arrests are part of the “ongoing efforts by the Iranian government to put pressure on the BBC” for the impartial news coverage in its Persian TV broadcasts.