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Source: Forbes

Apr 28, 2023

Independent Iranian TV Channel To Restart UK Broadcasts, Despite Threats From Tehran

BY Dominic Dudley

Persian-language television channel Iran International says it will restart news broadcasts from a London studio in the coming months, after being forced to move its operations to Washington D.C. earlier this year amid threats from the Iranian regime.

The TV channel abruptly halted broadcasts from its studios in Chiswick, west London in February, after receiving advice from the Metropolitan Police. Prior to that, the police had placed armed guards outside the studios in response to the threats against the station and its journalists.

Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp (IRGC) commander-in-chief Major General Hossein Salami subsequently boasted that the closure of the TV station was a sign of “how far the Islamic Revolution's realm of power, field of infiltration and radius of influence has extended.”

Speaking at an event in the Houses of Parliament in central London on April 19, the channel’s director of safety, security and resilience Roger Macmillan said “We are coming back” and added “we will be operating [from London] by the summer.”

Media under pressure

The threats against Iran International are part of a concerted effort by the Iranian regime to target independent media both inside and outside the country.

The BBC’s Persian-language service has also faced threats. A BBC executive told the April 19 event that it had also been advised by the Metropolitan Police of “an increased security threat to our journalists” and described the widespread harassment of both BBC Persian staff in the UK and their relatives in Iran.

Attempts to suppress independent reporting in and of Iran has increased since the death in custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in September 2022. She had been arrested for not adhering to the country’s strict dress code for women and her death sparked a wave of protests around the country.

Fiona O’Brien, UK bureau director for Reporters Without Border, said the tactics employed by the Iranian state have included arrest, physical, psychological and sexual threats, harassment of family members, asset freezes, censorship and digital surveillance.

“The tactics used are really wide and quite sophisticated and very sinister,” she said. “Since September, since the death of Mahsa Amini and the turbulence that followed through the protests, we have seen another rise in suppression.”

Macmillan said the decision by Iran International to restart broadcasts from London was made after consultations with the police and involves the establishment of a new studio in a different location.

“We will not be broadcasting again from Chiswick Park,” he said. “We are rebuilding and fortifying our new studios in London. In conjunction with the police, the assessment has been made that, with certain measures in place, we are going to be able to broadcast again.”

Terrorism debate

The developments are taking place against an ongoing debate in London about whether the government should label the IRGC as a terrorist organisation. Some 125 members of parliament recently signed a letter to prime minister Rishi Sunak, foreign secretary James Cleverly and home secretary Suella Braverman urging them to take this step.

“The government’s decision to proscribe the Hamas and Hezbollah terror groups were important steps in combating the threat of extremism and terrorism, but the UK can ill afford to stop there,” the letter said. “The IRGC is, after all, the primary financier, supplier, and trainer of these dangerous groups. It is incumbent upon the government to go after the parent organisation.”

British-Iranian activist Vahid Beheshti has been on hunger strike outside the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office since late February in an effort to push the government to proscribe the IRGC.

To date, however, the UK government has resisted the pressure.

Dominic Dudley is a freelance journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting on business, economic and political stories in the Middle ... Read More

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