The entourage of Iran’s president attacked, harassed and insulted Iran International journalists covering Ebrahim Raisi’s stay in New York.
In the latest incident on Wednesday, an official from Raisi's delegation attacked Iran International correspondent Kian Amani outside the Millenium Hilton New York One UN Plaza Hotel.
The official tried to grab Amini’s cellphone as he was capturing footage of them exiting the hotel. The hotel's security team finally intervened and halted the aggressor.
In another encounter, an official identified as Reza Naghipour – who ironically accompanied Raisi as a protocol coordinator -- was asked by Amani about his name and credentials. Amani also tried to ask questions about the protesters who were killed during the regime crackdown on dissent last year. But instead of replying or even refraining from answering, Naghipour started to threaten the reporter, telling him that he “should be trembling with fear until the end of his life” because he works for dissident media.
Raisi’s team in New York had a repertoire of pre-planned strategies to avoid answering questions from media outlets critical of the regime. As soon as a reporter approached them with challenging questions, Raisi’s men started filming the reporter as they embarked on a barrage of unrelated questions to and accusations of treason to intimidate the reporter.
The encounters by Raisi’s delegation have drawn countless reactions by other journalists, human rights activists and even media inside Iran. Earlier this year, Iran International's offices in London were forced to relocate to Washington after repeated threats from the IRGC forced the UK's highest security services to admit they were no longer able to safeguard the lives of the reporting team.
Activists, such as Ladan Boroumand, the co-founder of Abdorrahman Boroumand Center for Human Rights in Iran -- praised Iran International reporters for refusing to allow "the false narrative of the regime to become dominant”.
The composition of the entourage has raised serious questions as to how they were granted visas as part of its ‘diplomatic delegation'. Navid Mohebbi, a policy director with the National Union for Democracy in Iran think-tank, said, “These individuals should not have been granted entry in the first place" calling the entourage "thugs harassing journalists".
Recently-sanctioned Tasnim news agency, affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards, celebrated the circus created by the entourage behavior, publishing a video of one such case of harassment, boasting that “Iran International’s journalist fled in such a hurry that he didn't even turn back to pick up his headphones!”
Kasra Aarabi, with the United Against Nuclear Iran advocacy group, shared the video of the physical assault on Iran International’s Amini, saying, “This is what happens when you grant a mass murdering president and terrorist entourage entry to the West.”
One of the controversial figures who accompanied Raisi was a leader of a government vigilante mob who carried out the 2011 storming of the British embassy in Tehran. Now he is an advisor to the culture minister.
Moderate Iranian news website Rouydad 24, also criticized the selection of Raisi’s companions. Instead of ministers and high-ranking officials, Raisi’s team is comprised of “odd and peculiar people” who were tasked with “stopping foreign-based Persian-language media by shouting,” the media outlet said.
“If we look at President Raisi's agenda in New York, it appears more like a publicity campaign, and it probably won't yield any significant results,” Rouydad 24 said, pointing out that “What stands out most in President Raisi's trip to New York is the absence of an 'economic team' in his delegation, replaced instead by a group of 'slogan-shouting' individuals.”
Saman Arbabi, an Iranian-American journalist mainly known to Iranians as a co-creator and co-host of Voice of America's satirical television shows Parazit, released a video about his encounter with some of Raisi’s so-called ‘diplomatic delegation.’ He said when he saw how Raisi’s men attacked them when they sought to film them in an event at their New York hotel so “angrily and violently,” he tried to imagine the level of brutality during regime crackdown on protesters in Iran.