World News 31 Mart 2024

Iranian journalist shares defiant photo of himself after being stabbed in London

An Iranian television journalist who was stabbed outside his London home on Friday has shared a defiant photo of himself in hospital – after a colleague at his broadcaster said threats towards its staff had “escalated dramatically”.

Pouria Zeraati, a presenter at London-based broadcaster Iran International, was stabbed in the leg outside his home in Wimbledon, south London, on Friday afternoon.

A photo the 36-year-old shared on social media on Saturday afternoon showed him making a ‘peace’ sign with his fingers in a hospital bed.

Police have said the motivation for the attack is not yet clear, but his occupation – coupled with recent threats towards UK-based Iranian journalists – meant the probe was being led by specialist counter-terrorism officers.

Iranian journalist shares defiant photo of himself after being stabbed in London
Image:
Pouria Zeraati. Pic: Iran International

Iran International spokesman Adam Baillie said the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) has been targeting its broadcasters.

In October 2022 the IRGC – a key security force for the regime in Tehran – “openly” and “nakedly” warned Iran International ‘we’re coming for you’, Mr Baillie added.

When asked about the motives behind the attack itself, he said: “We can’t say. The fact that counter-terrorism is leading the investigation probably speaks for itself.”

But he added that Mr Zeraati had received death threats before and that the threats against Iran International’s staff had “escalated dramatically” over time.

Since 2022, several plots to either kidnap or kill British or UK-based individuals perceived as enemies of the Iranian regime have been disrupted by police, it is understood.

Mehdi Hosseini Matin, the Iranian charge d’affaires in the UK, said “we deny any link” to the knife attack on Friday.

Iranian journalist shares defiant photo of himself after being stabbed in London
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But speaking to Sky News, Iran International’s Mr Baillie said: “I just spoke to him [Mr Zeraati]… and he sounded very well – obviously very shaken up by the whole thing.

“But he’s making a good recovery and is looking forward to getting back to work, which is excellent.

“It’s come as a great shock because this is the first sort of physical attack on a staff member.

“But our staff have been under considerable threats for a good year-and-a-half.

“The threats have escalated dramatically against people, including Pouria, who has received many death threats over the past 18 months and is a singled out target as other high profile presenters on our channel are.”

Iran International temporarily shut down its operations in London early last year and moved to studios in Washington after what it described as an escalation of “state-backed threats from Iran”. The station resumed operations at a new location in London last September.

“Since the channel began in 2017, individuals working for it have been under a lot of pressure, overtly and covertly, from the state authorities in Iran,” Mr Baillie said.

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He added Iran International, alongside BBC Persian, has been labelled a terrorist channel by the IRGC, and that families of those working for them have been threatened.

Michelle Stanistreet, National Union of Journalists (NUJ) general secretary, called the stabbing on Friday a “cowardly attack” and “deeply shocking”, adding it would “inevitably raise fears amongst the many journalists targeted at Iran International and the BBC Persian Service that they are not safe at home or going about their work”.

Asked what the attitude among Iranian journalists is amid such pressure, Mr Baillie added: “The show must go on. That is very, very much the attitude.

“And it’s very noticeable that although it’s extremely worrying to live and to work under this kind of constant threat… people manage it and they’re very committed journalists.

“They’re committed to a free press and open press and sharing information, which is what they do very successfully. And the more successfully they do it, the greater the threats.”

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