Anti-terror police guard Iranian TV studios in west London

Anti-terror police guard Iranian TV studios in west London after MI5 warned Tehran’s agents could attack journalists in UK – as BBC staff raise fears regime has infiltrated corporation’s Persian-language arm

  • Armed police patrolled the offices of Iran International TV station in Chiswick
  • The Met says it was ‘working in response to potential threats projected from Iran’
  • BBC staff have raised concerns Iranian regime infiltrating Persian-language arm
  • Journalists for BBC Persian say they’ve had conversations intercepted or leaked

Anti-terror police were on guard outside an Iranian TV station in west London following warnings from MI5 that the regime’s agents could attack UK-based journalists.

Armed officers from the Metropolitan Police patrolled the offices of the Iran International TV station in Chiswick yesterday. 

An insider at the station said it was ‘very concerning’ that the armed officers were patrolling outside the offices, adding that it ‘must be based on a specific threat to us’.

A spokesperson for the Met added: ‘We can confirm that officers from the Metropolitan Police are working in response to potential threats projected from Iran against a number of UK-based individuals.

‘A number of protective security measures have been put in place to mitigate against these threats. While we will not be going into detail as to what these are, it does include the presence of overt armed police officers in the vicinity of the west London offices of a UK-based Persian language media company. 

‘This is a precautionary measure and we would ask the public to be alert but not alarmed by the presence of police in the area.’

It comes as BBC staff have raised concerns that the Iranian regime has crept into its Persian language arm as armed police officers patrol Iran TV station, The Times reports.

Journalists working for BBC Persian say they have had conversations intercepted and leaked, while information has also been used as propaganda or to question relatives in Iran.

A Metropolitan Police Jankel ‘Guardian’ armoured vehicle and Armed Response Vehicle  outside a building housing the Iran International TV station

An insider at the station said it was ‘very concerning’ that the armed officers were patrolling outside the offices

Staff at other news outlets have moved into safe houses in recent weeks, with the BBC warning that the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps had ‘escalated’ its harassment.

It comes after the boss of MI5 dramatically revealed this week that Iran has plotted to kill or kidnap at least 10 British residents it accuses of being ‘enemies of the regime’ on UK soil this year alone.

Director general Ken McCallum said while Tehran had long used violence to silence critics at home, its ‘aggressive intelligence services’ have now crossed the line to threatening Britain directly.

‘At its sharpest, this includes ambitions to kidnap or even kill British or UK-based individuals perceived as enemies of the regime,’ he said.

‘We have seen at least 10 such potential threats since January alone.’

It follows a string of protests over the death of Mahsa Amini in September.

The 22-year-old woman reportedly died in custody after being tortured by Iranian morality police for not wearing a hijab properly on September 16. 

Ms Amini was initially arrested in Tehran for an alleged breach of Iran’s strict dress rules for women based on Islamic sharia law. 

BBC Persian presenter Rana Rahimpour last month said she had been hacked by the Iranian state after a private conversation with her mother on WhatsApp was shared online.

A BBC spokesperson said: ‘The BBC’s Persian journalists and their families in Iran have been subject to a targeted campaign of harassment for many years.

‘This has recently escalated, and a BBC journalist has had private family conversations unlawfully recorded and published. Some are now seeking to use this to discredit the BBC’s journalism. 

‘Let us be clear: the BBC is independent. Private conversations BBC journalists have with their families are irrelevant to our journalism.’

Protesters protest about the Iranian government in Trafalgar Square, central London, on October 22

BBC staff are now increasing their own security amid the rising fears, with one reporter saying there is concern some workers may be ‘reporting back’ to the regime.

One former employee said: ‘We all knew that they have people inside but we didn’t necessarily know who. They wanted us to be terrified.’

A BBC spokesperson added: ‘We are not aware of any evidence that supports the suggestion that information within the BBC is compromised. 

‘BBC Persian journalists are facing untrue allegations, abuse and harassment on a daily basis; their safety and security remains our No 1 priority. 

‘We will continue to support them and have established processes in place to address any concerns raised.’

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