After months of hiatus in Iran International broadcasting from the UK due to terrorist threats by Tehran, the network is back on track from a new London building.
Announcing the launch of the new location, Mahmood Enayat, General Manager of Iran International TV, said, "Britain is the home of free speech. The resumption of our programs from this country is evidence that we will not abandon independent and uncensored journalism to the people of Iran."
Following a significant escalation in state-backed threats from Iran and advice from the London Metropolitan Police, Iran International TV announced in February that it reluctantly and temporarily closed its London studios and moved broadcasting to Washington DC. Iran International was warned by authorities in November that its journalists were under threat from Iranian agents and the police took measures to strengthen security around the network’s offices. A man was arrested in the vicinity of Iran International’s headquarters in February and charged with a terrorism offence.
In his message celebrating the resumption of broadcasting from London, Enayat extended his gratitude to the reporters and staff for their unwavering commitment during this challenging period. He also expressed appreciation to the Metropolitan Police of London and the British government for their continuous support in safeguarding Iran International's personnel and facilitating their safe return to the London office.
The channel's broadcasts have gained special significance since popular anti-regime rallies broke out in Iran last September, providing uncensored coverage of the protests and the subsequent crackdown on the public by the regime. Iranian officials have repeatedly threatened Iran International and other Persian broadcasters based abroad as the government blocked the Internet to deny the population news and information. The Iranian regime has blamed foreign-based Persian broadcasters such as BBC Persian and Iran International for “fomenting unrest”, while all media in the country are under tight government control and present protesters as “rioters” and “terrorists”.
On Sunday, British daily The Times reported that Iran International’s workers are “ready to run the gauntlet again” seven months after the terrorist scare. “They said they were receiving information that there is going to be an immediate attack — maybe today, tonight or tomorrow,” Aliasghar Ramezanpoor, the head of news at the channel, told the newspaper.
“The Iranian government tried to make islands of people and sought to cut the flow of information about what was going on from one city to another,” Saeid Habil, a senior journalist at Iran International, told the paper. “They managed to cut the internet, so people [in Iran] needed an alternative link to each other. We were that link.”
Speaking last week at the station’s new studios in north London, Elnaz Kiani, a lead news anchor, told The Times that “For months, we were living whatever people were living in Iran — with all the emotions and hope. People trusted us. They were putting their lives in our hands by going out into the street and taking videos for us.”
Amid repeated threats by the Islamic Republic against Iran International’s reporters, the UK government vowed in December to step up protection of London-based Iranian journalists. British officials also expressed strong support for Iran International. Tom Tugendhat, the UK's Minister of State for Security, has repeatedly condemned Iran's threats against the network. He affirmed that the UK would continue its support for the network, ensuring its activities in a secure environment.
Earlier this month, Iran’s Intelligence Minister Esmail Khatib reiterated threats against Iran International media network throughout the globe "wherever and whenever deemed necessary." He emphasized that the Islamic Republic would not refrain from invasive measures against the workers of the channel. “We believe that Iran International is a terrorist network, and naturally we deem it our duty and mission to act against them wherever and whenever we deem appropriate,” he said, warning that “no terrorist media will be safe.”
Khatib stated, "Support from various countries will not deter us from taking invasive security measures," claiming that several foreign-based channels have promoted “terrorism,” and Iran International is one of the most important ones.
The US Department of State, Belgium-based International Federation of Journalists, and Australia’s Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance are among entities that expressed support for Iran International and stressed the importance of safeguarding journalists' security and press freedom following the relocation of Iran International’s London office.
Following the relocation to DC, IRGC Commander-In-Chief Major General Hossein Salami said the threats against the channel’s journalists "show how far the Islamic Revolution's realm of power, field of infiltration and radius of influence has extended."
In May, Britain’s shadow security minister slammed the threats against journalists covering Iran’s protests. Speaking on World Press Freedom Day, Holly Lynch, the Labour MP for Halifax, said the threats by the Iranian regime include “assassination and kidnap plots against UK residents who are perceived as enemies of Iran owing to their coverage of the protests and the regime’s brutal crackdown”.