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UK summons top Iranian diplomat over threats to journalists

November 11, 2022

The UK says journalists there have received "credible" death threats from Tehran. The announcement came the same day Scottish authorities took a young Iranian wrestler into protection after she, too, was threatened.

A defaced portrait of Iran's Supreme Leader,  Ayatollah Ali Chamenei
Protests have been ongoing for nearly two months after the death of Masha AminiImage: SalamPix/ABACA/picture-alliance

The United Kingdom (UK) on Friday summoned Iran's top diplomat in London over death threats leveled at exiled Iranian journalists living in the UK.

"I have summoned the Iranian charge d'affaires today after journalists working in the UK were subject to immediate threats to life from Iran," Foreign Secretary James Cleverly tweeted, adding, "We do not tolerate threats and intimidation from foreign nations towards individuals living in the UK."

Authorities did not elaborate on specific threats but on Monday London-based Volant Media, which operates the independent, Farsi-language channel Iran International TV, said two of its British-Iranian journalists had received "credible death threats from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps."

Like many news outlets, Iran International TV has been closely covering unrest in Iran in the wake of the mid-September death of 22-year-old Jina Mahsa Amini at the hands of Tehran's so-called Morality Police.

Amini was arrested for a dress code infraction with authorities saying she was not wearing her hijab headscarf correctly.

Volant Media says UK authorities have warned a number of journalists about threats, though Metropolitan Police in London have not commented on the situation.

Young Iranian wrestler under threat from Tehran

Scottish authorities on Friday announced they had also taken steps to protect 22-year-old female wrestler Melika Balali from Tehran's regime.

Police Scotland confirmed the enactment of a "safety plan" to protect Balali, who is now based in and wrestles for Scotland.

Balali, who flashed a sign reading, "stop forcing hijab" this June after winning gold for Scotland at the British Wrestling Championships, was defiant toward Tehran, telling BBC Scotland: "These threats make me stronger. When I receive threats from the government of Iran I just think my way is right — if I were wrong, why would they threaten me?"

Tehran has accused outside powers of fomenting unrest in the Islamic Republic, warning the UK, for instance, that it would "pay" for its meddling.

Tehran claims London is harboring anti-Iranian journalists, while the BBC says religious hardliners in Iran are threatening and intimidating members of the BBC's Persian Service.

The Foreign Office has criticized Tehran for seeking to stifle dissent by suppressing freedom of expression and going after media outlets as protests show no sign of weakening, noting that more than 40 journalists have been arrested and detained so far.

js/aw (AFP, AP, Reuters)