UK Operations Of Iran International TV Network Suspended Amidst Grave Threats: 2023
Iran International TV, a UK-based Iranian broadcaster, has relocated to the United States after facing mounting threats and safety concerns against its journalists from Tehran. The move came after the Metropolitan police advised the channel to close its London studios due to state-backed threats, which made it no longer possible to ensure the safety of the channel's staff and the public in the surrounding area.
Iran International TV, a UK-based Iranian broadcaster, has relocated to the United States after facing mounting threats and safety concerns against its journalists from Tehran. The move came after the Metropolitan police advised the channel to close its London studios due to state-backed threats, which made it no longer possible to ensure the safety of the channel’s staff and the public in the surrounding area.
In a statement, the Iran International channel said it had “reluctantly” closed its London studios and moved to Washington DC after considering the advice from the police. Mahmood Enayat, the station’s general manager, expressed his disappointment over the situation, stating that a foreign state had caused such a significant threat to the British public on British soil that they had to move.
The relocation will allow Iran International TV to continue its operations without any fear of reprisals or threats. Meanwhile, Afghanistan International TV will continue to broadcast from the London studios as normal.
The move by Iran International TV has raised concerns over press freedom and the safety of journalists in the UK. The police are working to identify those responsible for the threats against the broadcaster and have assured the public that they are taking appropriate action to ensure their safety.
Counter-terrorism police in the UK have warned the Iran International TV channel that its staff could be in danger after Iranian authorities threatened the broadcaster. The warning follows a series of plots uncovered by police and MI5 to kidnap or kill British or UK-based individuals perceived as enemies of the regime. The head of counter-terrorism policing, Matt Jukes, said that the advice for Iran International to relocate has not been “taken lightly”. He added that 15 plots had been foiled since the start of 2022.
Iran International, a Persian-language channel, has faced multiple threats since anti-government protests began in Iran last year following the death of Mahsa Amini in custody. As the regime’s deadly crackdown on protests has intensified, its scrutiny of foreign-based news channels has increased. Iran International has provided coverage of recent protests and has been labeled a “terrorist” organization by the Iranian government.
The escalation of threats has been described as an “assault” on the values of sovereignty, security, and free speech by the head of Iran International, Enayat. Despite the dangers, he has refused to be silenced, stating that the channel will continue to broadcast and remain undeterred. Iran International aims to serve as a balanced and impartial source for many Iranians seeking an alternative to government-controlled media.
The UK government has spoken out against the hostile treatment of journalists both domestically and internationally. In a statement, a government spokesperson said that the country is committed to confronting the challenging reality faced by journalists worldwide, and that it will not tolerate any threat to media organisations or journalists.
The statement follows a recent incident in which a man was charged with terrorism after collecting information outside the headquarters of a UK-based news channel. Magomed-Husekjn Dovtaev, an Austrian national, appeared in court last week and pleaded not guilty. He is set to appear at the Old Bailey on 3 March.
In November, British-Iranian journalists based in the UK were warned of imminent threats, prompting increased security measures and calls for the UK to proscribe Iran’s Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist group. Around the same time, an unnamed British-Iranian citizen was arrested in Iran for allegedly sharing information with foreign-based news channels.
The government spokesperson emphasized the importance of media freedom, saying that journalists must be able to investigate and report independently without fear. The spokesperson also criticized the Iranian regime’s lack of respect for basic rights, calling its behavior “completely unacceptable” and “sadly typical of the regime.”
The UK government had pledged to increase protection for Iranian journalists in London following repeated threats by the Islamic Republic against Iran International’s reporters. British Foreign Minister James cleverly made the announcement during a session in Parliament on December 13, vowing that the Foreign and Commonwealth Development Office (FCDO), in partnership with the Home Office, would ensure that the Iranian journalists were safeguarded by the British police.
Cleverly stated that the UK was resolute in its determination to prevent Iran from intimidating individuals within the country and that it would not tolerate threats, particularly towards journalists who were shedding light on events in Iran or any other person residing in the UK. He emphasized that the UK would always stand up to aggression from foreign nations.
The move came in response to the Iranian government’s repeated warnings to Iran International journalists based in London, accusing them of biased reporting and labelling them as terrorists. The UK government’s decision to enhance the protection of Iranian journalists is aimed at guaranteeing their safety and well-being and allowing them to continue their work without fear of intimidation or harm.
Iran International, a media outlet that covers anti-regime protests, is headquartered in a complex consisting of 12 buildings in west London that house multiple foreign and global companies with a diverse workforce. The Metropolitan Police counter-terrorism unit’s Assistant Commissioner Matt Jukes expressed concern for the safety of Iran International’s employees in light of a recent arrest in the area and ongoing investigations. Despite enhanced security measures, Jukes stated that the police continue to monitor the situation closely.
In a statement released on behalf of Iran International TV, it was confirmed that the British police are investigating a threat against the station. The lead media liaison at Volant Media, Adam Baillie, confirmed that the station’s broadcasts have not been interrupted and that they are now transmitting from their studios in the US.
Afghanistan International, which is also owned by Volant Media, is still working from its studios in Chiswick. However, Baillie added that Iran International employees are now working remotely, similar to the COVID-19 lockdown measures, as it is considered safer by the police. The threat against the station is not only a threat to the station itself but to the British public as a whole and is an attack on the values of sovereignty, security, and free speech that the UK holds dear.
In the wake of a heightened threat level, employees at a business park are remaining cautious. The park, which houses roughly 10,000 people, has seen increased police presence in an effort to maintain the safety of the area. One employee, Baillie, emphasized the importance of recognizing the park as a whole and not just their individual company. However, Baillie assured that despite the concerns, all staff remain safe and are continuing their work as usual. He also stated that any changes in their work schedule are temporary and there are no plans to relocate, shut down, or reduce staff.
The company has recently announced that they were compelled to make the difficult decision to cease operations due to escalating threats that posed a threat to the safety of the channel’s staff, other employees at Chiswick Business Park, and the public in general. In a statement released to the press, the company explained that the severity of the threats had reached a point where it was no longer feasible to ensure the protection of everyone involved. Consequently, the company had no choice but to shut down its operations indefinitely.
Edited by Prakriti Arora