The Iranian intelligence has threatened to kidnap journalists working for the London-based Iran International TV and take them back to Iran. It has also pressured their families back in Iran to persuade their relatives to leave the channel, it was revealed on Monday.
"Since about a month ago, after the unrest in Iran and our extensive coverage of it, they started calling several high-profile journalists, mostly anchors. They phoned them repeatedly and threatened to snatch them off the streets of London unless they quit working here", an Iran International journalist told Radio Farda.
"Some families have also been contacted and summoned in Iran, threatened about their own safety and ordered to persuade the journalists to stop working for Iran International," he added.
The TV company is a private entity registered in the United Kingdom broadcasting 24/7 to Iran on satellite channels.
A dozen highly distressed journalists came forth with the story of the threats and intimidations, Sadeq Saba, a senior editor of the Persian-language news channel told Britain's Daily Express.
In one case, Saba said, the family of a journalist summoned by the intelligence ministry was told they knew her address and were capable of taking her from London to Tehran by force.
Tom Tugendhat, Conservative MP and the former chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, called on the Foreign Office on Sunday to summon Hamid Baeidinejad, the Iranian Ambassador in London, about the harassment of the UK-based journalists some of who are British citizens.
In several tweets in Persian in November Baeidinejad made controversial remakes about Iranian journalists working for London-based Persian-language television channels such as BBC Persian and Iran International, alleging they were "mercenaries of foreign intelligence services".
“Iran’s Ambassador is just a paid apparatchik for a dictatorial state but seeking to interfere in the freedom of the press here goes beyond the remit of any embassy. He should be summoned by the Foreign Office as a matter of urgency,” Tugendhat was quoted by the Express as saying.
According to the British paper, a spokesman of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said the reports of the threats are deeply concerning and that "the UK is committed to ensuring that journalists are able to do their jobs without fear of retribution".
Iranian journalists working for the Persian-language media abroad such as Iran International, Radio Farda, Voice of America and BBC Persian came under even greater pressure than before in November 2019 for reporting the unrest in Iran.
In a statement on November 26, Reporters Without Frontiers (RSF) condemned the Iranian security forces' pressure and threats against the families of Iranian journalists working abroad.
According to RSF the families of journalists working for these media outlets had been threatened by Iranian security forces.
RSF had deplored Baeidinejad for his role in relaying the threats of Iranian intelligence organs against Iranian journalists based abroad, especially in Britain and against their families in Iran.
In a statement released on November 29, Iran's Intelligence Ministry said working for the London-based Iran International Television is "proof of collaboration in terrorist actions with the enemies of Iran" while Mizan Online, the official mouthpiece of Iran's Judiciary, said a number of "key and influential" employees of Iran International Television had come under legal and judicial constraints regarding property transactions in Iran.
BBC Persian on December 9 announced that it had appealed to the UN Special Rapporteurs to stop Iran’s harassment of journalists’ family members in Iran who have been subjected to various threats and even been put in "degrading prison conditions and interrogation" during and after the November protests.
In August 2016, the Iranian Judiciary banned more than 150 individuals working for the Persian-language BBC television and radio from making any financial transactions inside Iran. In recent months a number of journalists working for Radio Farda have also been banned from making financial transactions in Iran.
The ban prevents these individuals from financial transactions including selling their properties in Iran, even through their attorneys. Iranian journalists who work abroad generally avoid travelling to Iran for fear of being prosecuted.