A UK-based Persian-language TV station has announced that it is relocating its London studios to the United States, due to the increasing threat from the Iranian regime and security advice from British police. On Feb. 18, the channel said in a statement: “After a significant escalation in state-backed threats from Iran and advice from the Metropolitan Police, Iran International TV says it has reluctantly closed its London studios and moved broadcasting to Washington D.C.” The decision came days after London’s Metropolitan Police reported that a man had been charged with a terrorism offence after being detained at Chiswick Business Park, where Iran International’s headquarters is located. The Met also said that it had detected 15 plots by Iranian intelligence services to kidnap or kill British or “UK-based” dissidents since January 2022.
Mahmood Enayat, general manager of Iran International TV, commented 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.”
Iran International TV is known for its criticism of the Iranian regime and its coverage of anti-government protests in the Islamic Republic, which began in Tehran on Sept. 16, following the death of Mahsa Amini, a young woman from Iran’s majority-Kurdish city of Saqez, in the custody of the regime’s so-called morality police. Since then, the protests have reportedly left hundreds of demonstrators and scores of security personnel dead. Iran has accused regional rival Saudi Arabia of funding the channel, though Saudi Arabia has not commented on Tehran’s allegations.
The relocation of the channel’s studios came shortly after a man was charged with terror offences after being detained near its London studios. Magomed-Husejn Dovtaev, 30, an Austrian national, was charged on Feb. 13 with “collecting information of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism,” according to the Met. Assistant Commissioner Matt Jukes, head of counter-terrorism policing, said: “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. This has led to us giving further advice and the company is now relocating.”
The UK government condemned 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 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.”
London-based British-Iranians have told The Epoch Times that they fear for their safety in the UK after speaking out against the Iranian government. Business owner Kamran (a pseudonym) said he has been “intimidated, harassed” at protest events and feels “under constant surveillance.” He said that Tehran has extended its “tentacles” in the United Kingdom by setting up “charity centres” or “Islamic centres” linked to the regime. “It seems the UK government is just totally blind to this,” he said.
Patricia Devlin, Reuters, and PA Media contributed to this report.