This week on 60 Minutes, correspondent Lesley Stahl reported on a type of proxy war Iran is waging around the world: hiring hitmen to intimidate, abduct and assassinate perceived enemies. Among the dissidents the Iranian government is increasingly targeting are journalists working abroad to report Iranian news.
"They killed journalism inside Iran. And now they are trying to spread the censorship and kill journalism outside the country," said Mehdi Parpanchi, the news director of Iran International, a Persian-language news outlet established in 2017.
Based between London and Washington, D.C., Iran International is banned in Iran, though it can be accessed within the country through satellite television. Reporting on topics that would be otherwise censored in Iran, the outlet became a prominent source of information on the anti-government protests in the country last year. Protests over hijab laws engulfed Iran whena 22-year-old Iranian woman, was arrested for opposing the laws and died in police custody.
Tehran considers Iran International a terrorist organization, claiming the channel has ties to Saudi Arabia. Anyone working for the news outlet—from top editor to the night cleaning-staff—is forbidden to ever reenter Iran.
By last fall, intimidation against the employees of Iran International had increased, as its reporters in London began receiving death threats. Metropolitan Police in London provided protection and barricaded Iran International's headquarters in Chiswick, west London.
In February, the British police recommended that Iran International shut down their operation in the U.K. The outlet moved its primary operation to its Washington, D.C. office, while others worked remotely.
Amid the shuffling of personnel, the outlet never ceased broadcasting.
"We Iranian journalists outside the country, we are, sometimes at the expense of our own lives, trying to give the people the true picture of what is happening inside the country and outside," Parpanchi told Stahl.
Matt Jukes, the head of counter terrorism policing in Britain, was involved in investigating the threat operation against Iran International. He told 60 Minutes that the Metropolitan Police had made a "significant arrest earlier this year" regarding the case and worked with Iran International to help the broadcaster return to London.
"We now feel we're able to support that broadcaster to get back on air in the U.K., and that's a freedom which we really value," Jukes said. "The freedoms to operate a free, fair, independent press are hugely important."
After broadcasting from Washington for seven months, Iran International returned to London this fall. Parpanchi told Stahl he and his colleagues are undeterred.
"We did not stop our operation even for a second," he said. "So, we were not defeated."
The video above was produced by Brit McCandless Farmer and edited by Sarah Shafer Prediger.
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