UK: Attack on Iranian journalist prompts safety fears

UK: Attack on Iranian journalist prompts safety fears - Protection

Iranian-British journalist Pouria Zeraati. Credit: Iran International

ARTICLE 19 expresses extreme concern about the safety of journalists as Pouria Zeraati, an Iranian-British journalist working for the Iran International outlet, was stabbed outside his home in Wimbledon, London on 29 March. While the British Counter-Terrorism department investigates the attack, there are widespread suspicions the attack was supported or ordered by the Islamic Republic of Iran. As of 2 April, the Metropolitan Police have investigated the three suspects in the attack, who fled the country through Heathrow Airport.  While there is no conclusive proof Iran’s authorities were behind this attack, transnational repression has become a hallmark of the Islamic Republic’s arsenal.

‘The authorities of the Islamic Republic have shown, time and again, that they have no hesitation in using every tool in their armoury of repression – from the brutal and unlawful killing of protesters, arbitrary detention of journalists and human rights defenders, to exterritorial threats and operations against dissidents abroad – to maintain their tight grip on power and conceal the atrocities they commit from the eyes of the world,’ said Saloua Ghazouani, Director of ARTICLE 19 Middle East and North Africa Programme.

ARTICLE 19 has expressed grave concern regarding the previous threats Iran International’s London offices have faced, leading to its temporary closure and relocation to the United States in February 2023. These threats were part of a broader pattern of intimidation and violence carried out by the Islamic Republic of Iran against dissidents and journalists globally. In light of the recent attack on Pouria Zeraati, and the investigation into who was behind it, this situation underscores the ongoing risk to journalists. Iran has labeled Iran International’s journalism as ‘terrorism’ and officials of the Islamic Republic have explicitly threatened the staff of the network. Other well-known personalities working at Iran International, such as Sima Sabet, have been placed under protection by the UK authorities. 

Adam Baillie, Iran International’s spokesperson, said on 3 April:

‘While nothing has been confirmed by the Met as to the identity of the attackers or their motives ,it is shocking to think that Pouria could just as easily have been killed in the attack on him, which followed a series of threats.’

Iran International’s move to the US in February 2023 followed credible information from the British authorities regarding threats against their staff in the UK. The network reopened in new studios in September 2023.  At the time, Mehdi Parpanchi, the Executive Editor for their US offices told ARTICLE 19: 

‘It’s unbelievable that the Revolutionary Guards and Iran government’s reach can extend to the UK. This is a direct attack on journalism and the free flow of information, a rare commodity inside the country [of Iran] thanks to the suppression and censorship imposed on the media.’

 ARTICLE 19 continues to stand in solidarity with those targeted for their work and calls for robust international action to protect journalists and human rights defenders and uphold freedom of expression.

‘The UK government must take all necessary steps to protect those living in their territories from threats by the Islamic Republic,’ Saloua Ghazouani said. ‘This must include opening criminal investigations, not only against agents arrested in the UK, but also against Iranian officials who are reasonably suspected of having ordered, solicited, planned, or instigated crimes, including extra-territorially.’