Amid repeated threats by the Islamic Republic against Iran International’s reporters, the UK has vowed to step up protection of London-based journalists.
British Foreign Minister James Cleverly said during a session at the parliament on Tuesday that the Foreign and Commonwealth Development Office (FCDO), in partnership with the Home Office, had ensured that the Iranian journalists were protected by the British police.
“The UK remains absolutely determined to ensure that Iran does not intimidate people within this country. We will always stand up to the aggression from foreign nations,” he noted, adding, “We will absolutely not tolerate threats, particularly towards journalists who are highlighting what is going on in Iran, or indeed any other individual living in the UK.”
One day later, Iran’s Intelligence Minister Esmail Khatib in a television interview repeated threats to “punish all those” who had a role in popular protests against the regime, wherever they might be.
Khatib on November 9 had said the Islamic Republic regards Iran International as “a terrorist organization,” adding that its workers and anyone affiliated with the channel will be pursued by the Ministry of Intelligence all over the globe.
In November, Volant Media, the parent company of Iran International, said that two of its journalists had been notified of direct threats. It said in a statement the Metropolitan Police had formally notified both journalists that these threats represent an imminent, credible and significant risk to their lives and those of their families. Ken McCallum — the head of MI5, the UK’s domestic counter-intelligence and security agency -- said on November 16 that UK authorities have discovered at least 10 “potential threats” since January to “kidnap or even kill British or UK-based individuals perceived as enemies of the regime.”
Expressing the UK’s commitment to hold the Islamic Republic to account, Cleverly said, “These protests in Iran are a watershed moment. After years of repression, the Iranian people have clearly had enough. They are standing up to the authoritarian regime under which they live. Sadly, the regime has responded in the only way it knows: with violence.”
He went on to say the UK has imposed more than 300 sanctions -- including sanctioning the Islamic Revolutionary Guard in its entirety, adding “We will continue to work with partners to challenge the regime’s aggression at home and its disruptive behavior in the region.”
Declining to disclose plans to hit the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) with further punitive measures after Iran International staff were given armed police protection, he said that it was “counterproductive to detail what future sanctions and designations might be brought in to ensure that the targets of those sanctions do not in any way try to evade the sanctions before they’re brought in”.
Also on Tuesday, UK security minister Tom Tugendhat said that Britain is facing growing interference, threats and influence from state actors including Iran, warning the “emerging era of state-based threats” poses “a challenge to our future and to our society” as well as to freedom of speech in the UK and residents' way of life. “They are threats not just to life — they are threats to our way of life,” he said at London-based think tank Policy Exchange.
The security minister said the Islamic regime’s crackdown on anyone it perceives as a threat to its authority had extended to Britain, noting that “Iran's malign behavior in the Middle East directly threatens our partners and our interests.”
“They are brutally suppressing courageous people in the streets who are calling for an end to the control of a corrupt and corrupted religious security elite claiming authority from God. All of this is clear, much of it has been clear for some time. What’s new is that we’re seeing this grow at home,” he said.
“Since Ken McCallum’s speech just a few weeks ago we’ve seen even more out of Iran,” Tugendhat said. “This is not and has not yet finished.”
Faced with nationwide antigovernment protests since mid-September, the Islamic Republic has blamed foreign-based Persian broadcasters such as BBC Persian and Iran International of “fomenting unrest”, while all media in the country are under tight government control and present protesters as “rioters” and “terrorists”.