Iran International studio in London

UN Experts Say Tehran Must Stop Violence Against Iran International

Friday, 05/31/2024

UN experts are warning of transnational violence, threats, and intimidation by Iranian authorities and their proxies targeting the Persian language news service Iran International and its journalists.

“We are deeply alarmed that death threats and intimidation against Iran International staff escalated into the violent stabbing of journalist Pouria Zeraati outside his home in London on 29 March 2024,” the experts said.

Zeraati, one of the network’s most prominent television hosts and journalists, was stabbed outside his home in London in March, prompting British police to launch a counterterrorism investigation.

Last year, Scotland Yard disclosed that police and MI5 had foiled 15 plots since the start of 2022 to either kidnap or kill UK-based individuals perceived as “enemies of the Iranian regime.”

The five special UN rapporteurs urged the Iranian authorities to “refrain from violence, threats and intimidation against Iran International and its staff, online and offline, and other journalists and media workers reporting on Iran from abroad.”

The threats faced by Iran International and its staff from Iranian authorities and their proxies are intended to silence critical media reporting on Iran, the experts assert.

Since its founding, the network and its journalists have endured threats, but these reportedly surged dramatically after the "Woman, Life, Freedom" protests erupted across Iran in 2022.

The months-long nationwide demonstrations by Iranians were met with a brutal crackdown by authorities, resulting in at least 550 deaths, tens of thousands of detentions, and a sharp increase in recorded executions.

Iranian authorities falsely blamed Persian media abroad for fueling the unrest, leading to a sharp increase in threats and assassination plots against its journalists, the UN experts said.

After multiple threats from Tehran, Iran International was temporarily forced to relocate its broadcasting activities to the US in 2023. The broadcaster has since resumed its work from a studio in the UK.

In 2022, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) orchestrated an assassination plot targeting two Iran International news presenters, Fardad Farahzad and Sima Sabet. The plan initially involved a car bomb but was later foiled by a double agent working for a Western intelligence agency.

The following year, Iran International journalist Kian Amani was physically and verbally assaulted by a member of Iran’s delegation to the United Nations at a hotel in New York.

“Such attacks not only violate the human rights to life and personal security but are also aimed at suppressing freedom of expression and the media, including legitimate criticism of the Iranian Government,” they said.

Iran also imposed travel and financial sanctions on Volant Media, which owns Iran International, in 2022 for supposedly supporting terrorism and froze the assets of the owners and their family members in Iran in 2019.

Islamic Republic Targets Dissidents and ‘Enemies’ Abroad

The experts also asserted that the threats emanating from Iran were part of a broader pattern of attacks against Persian language media and dissidents abroad, including journalists working for BBC News Persian, Deutsche Welle, Voice of America, IranWire, and Radio Farda.

In recent years, headlines have repeatedly highlighted threats and targeting by the Iranian state against the Iranian diaspora and anyone deemed an enemy of the Islamic Republic.

This week, the Swedish Security Service says it “established that the Iranian regime uses criminal networks in Sweden to carry out violent acts against other states, groups, or individuals in Sweden that Iran regards as threats.” It also said that Iran has carried out acts of violence in other European countries to silence criticism and “what it regards as threats to its regime.”

Germany has marked a rise in Iran’s activities targeting Jewish communities and the Iranian diaspora. A notable incident involved an attack on the Old Synagogue in Essen, where bullets were fired at the building. German and Western intelligence officials identified Ramin Yektaparast, a Hells Angels leader operating from Tehran, as the orchestrator of the attack, allegedly directed by the IRGC.

Canada’s spy agency, in late 2022, noted credible death threats against Iranians in Canada. The Canadian Security Intelligence Service reported that state actors from the Islamic Republic of Iran are monitoring and intimidating individuals within Canada to silence those who publicly criticize the regime.

One of the most high-profile incidents of Iran’s transnational repression involved Iranian-American activist Masih Alinejad. She was targeted in a kidnapping plot announced by the Justice Department, and later, in a murder-for-hire plot. Prosecutors charged a group of Iranians, said to be working at the behest of the country's intelligence services, with planning to kidnap her.

The repression of Iranian dissidents on Western soil dates back to the chain murders of 1988–98, when several Iranian intellectuals critical of the Islamic Republic disappeared or were killed.

Among the victims was TV host and political activist Fereydoon Farokhzad, whose murder on German soil is widely believed to have been orchestrated by the authorities in Iran as part of this series of assassinations.

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