Iran International TV to return to air following Tehran death threats

London-based broadcaster shut down in February after British security services warned journalists of murder and kidnap threat

Armed police outside the Houses of Parliament. Iran International television station will have high-level security similar to Westminster when it comes back on air this week. EPA
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The Iranian opposition television news channel Iran International will return to air from new high-security studios this week after being shut down following alleged threats from the Iranian state.

The London-based channel has been shut since February after British security services said there was a credible threat to staff safety from Tehran operators.

The Farsi-language news broadcaster has now moved sites to a west London base with a major security operation installed, including steel barriers and armed security patrols.

Aliasghar Ramezanpoor, head of news, told The Sunday Times that his journalists hoped to reconnect with Iranians who had risked arrest by sending in video clips of the mass protests that followed the death of Mahsa Amini in police custody last year.

“We are saying, ‘You are back – you are finding your voice again’,” said Mr Ramezanpoor, who has received three credible death threats.

“As a journalist, I feel it is my moral obligation,” he added. “People are putting their trust in us.”

In mid-February the station, which is owned by private investors, including a British-Saudi businessman, was informed by Scotland Yard that intelligence suggested it faced an imminent attack from kidnappers and assassins sent by Iran.

The reports stated that there were “multiple threats” against the broadcaster’s staff, in particular those born in Iran. The security services also stated: “We don’t know how we can prevent the attack.”

Iran International provided a major platform to broadcast uncensored news of the protests following the death of Ms Amini, 22, after her arrest in September last year by the morality police for wearing the hijab “improperly”.

At the height of the Amini protests the station broadcast footage, filmed on demonstrators’ phones and sent via the internet to Iran International, despite the risk of arrest by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

The station’s influence – with an estimated 30 million viewers both in Iran and abroad – is believed to have led the Tehran regime to take direct action against it.

But broadcasts may now resume as soon as Monday, with new security safeguards in place similar to those that protect the British Parliament in Westminster.

Iran International has moved a short distance from its former Chiswick studios to a high-security site surrounded by 100 metres of steel barriers. Inside, it has several security features, including measures to mitigate the risk of bombings and gun attacks.

Iran’s intelligence minister Esmaeil Khatib declared the broadcaster a “terrorist network” and stated the regime would take “offensive security measures … whenever and wherever we deem appropriate”.

The British Security Service, also known as MI5, has reported an estimated 15 attempts of murder or kidnap of British Iranians, including journalists, by the Tehran regime since 2022.

Mr Ramezanpoor, 62, launched Iran International in 2017 after a career editing newspapers in Iran and a short period as the country's deputy culture minister for President Mohammad Khatami’s reformist government in 2005.

Updated: September 24, 2023, 3:27 PM