Iran’s most senior diplomat has been summoned by the foreign secretary after UK journalists faced a series of threats from the Iranian regime. James Cleverly followed up the meeting by sanctioning eight Iranian officials – three of whom were judges who had imposed the death sentence against protesters, including children, according to Mr. Cleverly.
London-based TV network Iran International had been forced to suspend their UK operations following repeated threats by the Iranian regime.
Vijay Rangarajan, Director General for the Middle East, met with Iranian Chargé d’Affaires Mehdi Hosseini Matin to make clear the government, in Mr Cleverly’s words, “will not tolerate threats to journalists in the UK”.
Iran International said they had to move to the US following threats from Tehran, and now operate out of Washington DC.
A man was arrested on Monday in the same area and charged with terrorism offenses related to the surveillance of the company’s headquarters.
The channel said on Saturday that it had “reluctantly” closed its west London studios in Chiswick but its staff “refused to be silenced by these cowardly threats”.
Mahmood Enayat, general manager of Iran International TV, said in a statement: “I cannot believe it has come to this. A foreign state has caused such a significant threat to the British public on British soil that we have to move. Let’s be clear, this is not just a threat to our TV station but the British public at large.
“Even more this is an assault on the values of sovereignty, security and free speech that the UK has always held dear.
“Day and night our journalists strive to deliver the 85 million people of Iran and its diaspora the independent, uncensored news they deserve. We refuse to be silenced by these cowardly threats. We will continue to broadcast. We are undeterred.”
Their relocation comes after the Metropolitan Police warned of “serious” and “grave” concerns about “hostile intentions of foreign states”.
According to the Met, police and MI5 have foiled 15 plots since the beginning of 2022 to either kidnap or kill UK-based individuals perceived as enemies of the Iranian regime.
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Even though the force had ramped up their security in the area around Iran International, including an over armed policing presence in the area, head of counter-terrorism policing Matt Jukes said they still had “serious concerns for the safety of people working at this company.” .”
He said that the advice given to the company to relocate had not been “given lightly,” adding: “The situation that journalists face around the world and the fact that some journalists face such hostile intentions of foreign states whilst in the UK is a challenging reality that we are determined to confront.”
Iran International found themselves in the focus of Iranian threats after reporting on the protests rocking the country after the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while in police captivity. She had been arrested for allegedly not following the regime’s strict dress code for women.
Protests have taken place in more than 125 cities, with at least 270 people killed and nearly 14,000 arrested, according to the group Human Rights Activists in Iran.
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A spokesperson for the UK Government responded to the broadcaster’s move by condemning the “lack of respect for basic rights” demonstrated by the Iranian regime, saying: “Media freedom is a vital part of our society and journalists must be able to investigate and report independently. without fear.
“We will not tolerate any threat to media organizations or journalists. We know the Iranian regime has established a pattern of this type of behavior which is completely unacceptable, yet sadly typical of the regime and its lack of respect for basic rights.
“The police are continuing to work in response to this threat. We will continue to use all tools at our disposal to protect individuals in the UK against any threats from the Iranian state.”