Iranian TV station leaves London for US over threats from Tehran

Iranian TV station leaves London for US over threats from Tehran

Iran International TV, a UK-based Iranian broadcaster, said it was moving operations to the US because of threats from Tehran and fears for the safety its journalists.

The move to Washington DC follows warnings from the Metropolitan Police that there remain serious and grave concerns about “hostile intentions of foreign states”, it said on Saturday.

The channel said it had reluctantly closed its west London studios in Chiswick but its staff “refuse to be silenced by these cowardly threats”.

The decision comes after a man was arrested on Monday in the same area and charged with terrorism offences related to surveillance of the company’s headquarters.

Mahmood Enayat, general manager of the Persian-language broadcaster, 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,” he said.

“The channel’s broadcasts have gained special significance since popular anti-regime protests broke out in Iran in September. Iranian officials have repeatedly threatened Iran International and other Persian broadcasters based abroad since the start of protests when the government blocked the internet to deny the population news and information.

“We refuse to be silenced by these cowardly threats. We will continue to broadcast. We are undeterred.”

The Met said police and MI5 had foiled 15 plots since the start of last year to either kidnap or kill people in the Britain perceived as enemies of the Iranian regime.

The force stepped up security around the TV studios in Chiswick, posting armed police in the area.

“In light of the ongoing investigation that follows the arrest of a man last weekend in that area, and despite extraordinary security measures, we still have serious concerns for the safety of people working at this company,” Assistant Commissioner Matt Jukes, head of counter-terrorism policing, said in a statement.

“This has led to us giving further advice and the company is now relocating.”

The advice “has not been given lightly”, he said.

“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.”

The British government responded to the broadcaster’s move by condemning the “lack of respect for basic rights” demonstrated by the Iranian regime.

A representative said: “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 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.

“We will continue to use all tools at our disposal to protect individuals in the UK against any threats from the Iranian state.”

With reporting from Press Association

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