Iran has called for the designation of UK-based Persian-language news outlets as “terrorist organisations”, accusing them of stoking unrest amid ongoing protests over the death of a young Iranian woman in police custody.
Kazem Gharibabadi, the deputy Judiciary Chief for International Affairs and Head of the country’s top human rights body, said Iran International and BBC Persian must be added to the list of terrorist organisations.
He said Tehran will be initiating legal measures against these Persian-language news outlets for “directing and inciting riots in Iran through the promotion of terrorist acts and encouraging people to destroy public and private property.”
His call came amid countrywide protests over the death of Mahsa Amini, who died following her detention by the country’s morality police last month for allegedly wearing “inappropriate dress”.
The tragic incident sparked unprecedented protests that spread across the country, including the capital, Tehran.
It also drew strongly-worded statements of condemnation from Western governments, including the United States and the European Union, who imposed sanctions on Iranian individuals and entities over the incident.
Iranian authorities have denied any foul play in Amini’s death, despite her family insisting that she was killed in police custody, blaming “foreign forces” for “instigating riots” in the aftermath of the incident, which resulted in more than 100 fatalities.
Iranian authorities have, in particular, taken strong umbrage to the role of UK-based Persian-language news websites such as Iran International, BBC Persian and Manoto as well as the US-funded Voice of America Persian and Radio Farda for “fanning the protests”.
In a detailed report published on Monday, Mizan News Agency, affiliated with Iran’s judiciary, blamed these news channels for causing “evil disturbances” through their programs and reports on Amini’s death and the protests that followed.
It specifically referred to Iran International and BBC Persian, calling them “violent” and “interventionist” that have “encouraged terrorism” in Iran in recent weeks.
Last week, the top Commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), General Hossein Salami, issued a stern warning to Saudi Arabia over Iran International’s coverage of protests in Iran, accusing Riyadh of bankrolling it.
He accused the Saudi leadership of “provoking the Iranian youth”, and threatening “consequences” if the anti-Iran slant of the news channel was not controlled.
The focus has been on these UK-based news channels right from the beginning of protests over Amini’s death in mid-September.
The British envoy in Tehran was summoned by the country’s Foreign Ministry at least three times last month to lodge a protest against London for hosting these Persian-language news channels.
In the first such summon on 25 September, Iran protested what it called the role of London-based Persian-language media outlets in “instigating riots” and “creating a hostile environment” in Iran in the wake of Amini’s death.