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UK-based Iranian TV channel moves to US after threats from Tehran

A UK-based Iranian broadcaster has moved its operation to the US after mounting threats and safety concerns against its journalists from Tehran.

Acting on advice from the Met police, Iran International TV “reluctantly” closed its London studios after state-backed threats, a statement said, as safety concerns made it no longer possible to protect the channel’s staff and the surrounding public.

“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,” said Mahmood Enayat, the station’s general manager.

The channel will continue its output from its Washington DC site, while Afghanistan International TV continues as normal to broadcast from the London studios.

Enayat described the escalation as a threat to the British public, calling it an “assault” on the values of sovereignty, security and free speech. “We refuse to be silenced by these cowardly threats. We will continue to broadcast. We are undeterred,” he said.

The threat is one of many the Persian-language channel has faced since anti-government protests began in Iran in 2022, sparked by outrage over the death of Mahsa Amini’s death in custody.

As the regime’s deadly crackdown has intensified, so too has its scrutiny of foreign-based news channels. Iran International, which aims to serve as a balanced and impartial source for many Iranians, has covered recent protests and been described as a “terrorist” organisation by the regime.

The advice for it to relocate has not been “taken lightly” said the head of counter-terrorism policing, Matt Jukes.

Police and M15 have foiled 15 plots since the start of 2022 to kidnap or kill British or UK-based individuals perceived as enemies of the regime, according to Juke.

“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,” he said.

Last week, a man was charged with terrorism after collecting information outside the channel’s Chiswick headquarters. Magomed-Husekjn Dovtaev, 30, appeared in court last week and pleaded not guilty. The Austrian national will appear at the Old Bailey on 3 March.

In November, British-Iranian journalists based in the UK were warned by police of imminent threats, which prompted increased security measures and calls from the House of Commons for the UK to proscribe Iran’s Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist group. Shortly after, an unnamed British-Iranian citizen was arrested in Iran for allegedly sharing information with foreign-based news channels.

“Media freedom is a vital part of our society and journalists must be able to investigate and report independently without fear,” a government spokesperson said.

“We will not tolerate any threat to media organisations or journalists. We know the Iranian regime has established a pattern of this type of behaviour which is completely unacceptable, yet sadly typical of the regime and its lack of respect for basic rights.” The Guardian

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