A Persian-language satellite TV channel based in the United Kingdom says it is moving its operations to Washington after British officials cited threats to the broadcaster’s employees from agents of the Iranian regime.
The move comes after US and British officials accused Iran of trying to target critics and dissidents abroad following a wave of anti-regime protests across the country that began in September.
Iran International Television said on Saturday that it “reluctantly closed its London studios” in response to increasing threats against its journalists and on the advice of London’s Metropolitan Police.
“I can’t believe it has come to this. A foreign state poses such a significant threat to the British public on British soil that we have to relocate,” station general manager Mahmoud Inayat said in a statement to the broadcaster. .
“We refuse to be silenced by these cowardly threats,” he added. “We will continue to broadcast. We are unaffected.
British Foreign Secretary James Cleverley said on Monday he was “appalled by the Iranian regime’s continued threats to the lives of UK-based journalists” and ordered officials to “make this wish clear” to Mahdi Hosseini, Iran’s charge in charge of Iran in London. To do” call. will not be tolerated.
Smartly said in a statement: “The UK will always stand against countries that threaten our fundamental values of freedom of expression and the media.”
The foreign secretary also announced new UK sanctions against eight individuals in Iran accused of carrying out a crackdown on protesters, including an Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps commander in West Azerbaijan and Kurdistan, where rights groups say that children were among those allegedly killed by the security forces. , Three senior judges were also approved to impose the death penalty on protesters in Iran.
Iran International said in November last year that police had warned that its journalists were at risk from Iranian agents. London’s police force deployed armed officers to protect the broadcaster’s offices in Chiswick Business Park and tighter security measures were put in place at the entrance to the site.
An Austrian man, 30-year-old Magomed-Huseyn Dovtaev, was arrested by anti-terrorist police officers in west London on 11 February and charged with gathering information that could be used to carry out a terrorist attack Was. Dovtaev is alleged to have filmed videos of the building where Iran International operates, as well as of security at the site.
Dovtev pleaded not guilty at Westminster Magistrates’ Court this week and will next appear at the Old Bailey, London’s central criminal court, on March 3.
Iranian journalists in the UK who have been critical of the regime in Tehran have been targeted for abduction and murder by Iranian agents, according to the British government and intelligence services, with an increase in the number of plots detected in recent weeks.
Iran conspired to abduct or kill at least 10 British nationals or individuals believed to be enemies of the regime In 2022, Ken McCallum, director general of the British security service known as MI5, said in November.
Last month, US prosecutors charged three members of an Eastern European criminal group with ties to Iran in the attempted murder of a prominent American journalist and activist critical of the Iranian regime. Shortly after the charges were announced, author and women’s rights activist Masih Alinejad It was revealed that she was the target of an assassination plot.
The assassination attempt came after the FBI and federal authorities interrupted a previous attempt by the Iranian group to silence Alinejad on US soil, officials said.
Iran’s intelligence minister has labeled Iran International a “terrorist organization”.
The broadcaster has provided significant coverage of the government’s response to the nationwide protests sparked by the September death of Mahsa Amini, an Iranian Kurdish woman, after she was arrested by the country’s morality police.
Iran portrays the broadcaster as a tool of Saudi Arabia, and in October the commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps warned Saudi Arabia over the channel’s coverage.
“This is our last warning, because you are interfering in our internal affairs through these media,” said Major General Hussein Salami.
Iran International describes itself as an independent media outlet. The company that owns broadcaster Volant Media was once majority owned by a Saudi national.
Iran’s UN mission did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Since the 1979 revolution that toppled Iran’s monarchy, the theocratic Iranian regime has a history of targeting its enemies abroad. Western governments and human rights organizations have accused Iran of numerous assassinations and attempted assassinations over the years.
In February 2021, a Belgian court convicted Assadullah Asadi, an Iranian diplomat based in Vienna, of masterminding a July 2018 plot to bomb an annual conference of an Iranian opposition group near Paris. According to German and Belgian officials, Asadi was an Iranian intelligence officer operating under diplomatic cover.
Iran has denied the allegations and dismissed allegations of hunting adversaries abroad.