Iran International halts London broadcasts on police advice amid threats

Iran International TV has moved its 24 hour broadcasting to its Washington D.C. studio. (File/Volant Media)
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Updated 18 February 2023

Iran International halts London broadcasts on police advice amid threats

  • Persian-language station moves operations to US a week after man, 30, arrested on terror charge
  • Police say foreign threats are now so severe they can no longer mitigate danger to staff and the general public

LONDON: A London-based Persian-language television channel has been forced to close its offices on police advice in response to potential threats from Iran against a number of UK-based individuals.

“After a significant escalation in state-backed threats from Iran and advice from the Metropolitan Police, Iran International TV has reluctantly closed its London studios and moved broadcasting to Washington D.C.,” where it will continue to operate uninterrupted, the station said in a statement.

The move comes a week after police arrested and charged Austrian national Magomed-Husejn Dovtaev, 30, for allegedly “collecting information of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism,” police said. 

“Threats had grown to the point that it was felt it was no longer possible to protect the channel’s staff, other employees at Chiswick Business Park and the general public,” the company added.

Iran International, which was launched in May 2017 and provides extensive coverage of anti-regime demonstrations, is headquartered in a complex in west London formed of 12 buildings that host several foreign and global companies, employing thousands of staff from all over the world.

Assistant Commissioner Matt Jukes, head of the Metropolitan Police counter-terrorism unit, said: “In light of the ongoing investigation that follows the arrest of a man last weekend in that area, and despite extraordinary security measures, we still have serious concerns for the safety of people working at this company.”

In November, police installed barriers and security checks, and placed armed officers around the channel’s building, and Jukes confirmed that despite the relocation, “protective security measures” will remain in place to “reassure” the local community.

“I cannot believe it has come to this. A foreign state has caused such a significant threat to the British public on British soil that we have to move,” said Mahmood Enayat, general manager of Iran International TV.

“Let’s be clear this is not just a threat to our TV station but the British public at large. Even more, this is an assault on the values of sovereignty, security and free speech that the UK has always held dear,” he added in a statement.

Adam Baillie, lead media liaison at Volant Media, which owns Iran International TV, confirmed to Arab News that there has been no interruption to the station’s broadcasts and that it is now transmitting through its studios in the US.

He said that Afghanistan International, also owned by Volant Media, is continuing to work inside the studios in Chiswick, but Iran International employees are now working remotely.

“It’s basically (like) another COVID lockdown, which is working from home, because it’s just easier and safer at the moment, as far as the police are concerned, for us to do that.

“Remember that it’s a big business park, we just occupy one part of a building and there are something like 10,000 people, so the police have to be mindful of the safety of the area, not just us,” Baillie added.

He said that aside from the rise in threat level, all staff are safe, and although the situation is “very worrying, in a way nothing has changed and people just carry on working.”

Baillie also said that the shift is temporary, and there are no plans to move out, shut down or make staff redundant.

Since its inception, staff at Iran International TV claim they have faced a campaign of threats, and that pressure has been applied on their families in Iran.

Jukes said police and MI5 have foiled 15 plots since the start of 2022 to either kidnap or kill British or UK-based individuals perceived as enemies of the regime.

“This news may also be of concern to members of the wider Iranian diaspora in the UK,” he said. “If anyone has concerns over their own safety or the safety of somebody else, then they should contact their local police force.”

Fatima Al-Banawi’s directorial debut ‘Basma’ to premiere on Netflix in 2024

Saudi actress Fatima Al-Banawi to make her directorial debut with 'Basma'. (Supplied)
Updated 29 November 2023

Fatima Al-Banawi’s directorial debut ‘Basma’ to premiere on Netflix in 2024

  • Actress plays title character in film that deals with issue of mental illness

LONDON: Saudi actress Fatima Al-Banawi is set to make her directorial debut with the film “Basma,” which premieres on Netflix next year.

Best known for her role in “Barakah Meets Barakah,” Al-Banawi plays the title character in the movie, a young Saudi woman who returns to her hometown of Jeddah after completing her studies in the US.

She is soon faced with the reality of a father suffering from a mental illness, broken family relationships, and struggles to recapture the home life she once knew.

“There are 7 billion versions of normal on this planet. I hope I managed to deliver one of them,” said Al-Banawi, who also wrote and directed the film.

“After we finished filming ‘Basma,’ I wondered whether there would be anything better than dreams coming true, and I realized the only thing better than that is to be able to dream.”

Hello! magazine set to launch in Middle East

Updated 29 November 2023

Hello! magazine set to launch in Middle East

  • Hello! Arabia and Hello! Indo-Arabia will focus on luxury lifestyle content with “distinctive Arabian flair,” and stories about regional and international celebrities
  • The print editions will be distributed across the Gulf region, Lebanon, Egypt and Morocco; the magazines will share a website and host regular celebrity events

DUBAI: Spanish media group Hola! is preparing to launch regional editions of Hello! Magazine, in partnership with Sudhakar Adapa, the founder and CEO of Bia Brands.

Hello! Arabia and Hello! Indo-Arabia will focus on luxury lifestyle content with “distinctive Arabian flair,” and stories about regional and international celebrities, the company said.

The monthly print editions will be distributed across the Gulf region, Lebanon, Egypt and Morocco, and the magazines will share a website. They will also host regular celebrity events.

The editorial offices will be in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and content will be supplied by contributors throughout the region. The editor-in-chief of Hello! Arabia is yet to be announced but Faarah Mehta has been appointed to the role with Hello! Indo-Arabia.

“We are delighted to bring this prestigious brand to the Gulf audience,” said Adapa.

Eduardo Sanchez Perez, the chairman of Hola Group, added: “It gives us great pleasure to welcome Hello! Indo-Arabia and Hello! Arabia to our big Hola! and Hello! family, so that readers from the Gulf and wider MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region will join us in savoring life’s beautiful moments with the inspiring exclusives, news and human-interest stories they will find in these two magazines.”

The magazines are set to launch in the first quarter of 2024.

Jewish BBC staff defy rules to attend antisemitism march

Updated 28 November 2023

Jewish BBC staff defy rules to attend antisemitism march

  • The employees, who work in current affairs and journalism, say their Jewish identity ‘took precedence over what the BBC thinks’
  • BBC rules on impartiality state editorial staff ‘should not participate in public demonstrations or gatherings about controversial issues’

LONDON: A number of Jewish employees of the BBC joined a march in London on Sunday in protest against antisemitism, in contravention of the broadcaster’s policy.

Staff members attended the event, organized by the Campaign Against Antisemitism, despite being reminded of BBC rules on impartiality that state editorial staff “should not participate in public demonstrations or gatherings about controversial issues.” Employees who want to participate in pro-Palestine marches are believed to have been given similar reminders.

The Jewish employees, who reportedly work in current affairs and journalism departments, told Times Radio that being Jewish “took precedence over what the BBC thinks.”

One person, who spoke to The Times on condition of anonymity, said: “I learned last week that the BBC was barring members of staff from attending the planned march against antisemitism — and let’s face it, we’re really talking about Jewish members of staff here, because they’re the only ones who would really be wanting to go — so the BBC knew exactly who it was stopping.”

Although the BBC describes the rules as guidance, non-compliance can result in disciplinary action, the employee added.

“We understood the BBC’s rationale that staff risk creating a perception of bias by attending marches which are political or controversial but this was not a march about Brexit or the NHS, but a march against antisemitism and there is nothing controversial or political about that,” the worker said.

“Antisemitism has soared in Britain since the Hamas attacks and the start of the war on Oct. 7, and as Jews we are all-too-well aware. Whether or not we have experienced it directly, our families and communities are affected by it daily and it is on our minds, whether we are at home or at work.

“Personally, I was unwilling to comply as I felt my attendance, as a Jewish person, took precedence over what the BBC thinks and I went to the march. I know several other Jewish staff did too and I am sure there were more who I don’t know about. The march was dignified and civilized and did nothing other than demonstrate an utter rejection of antisemitism by not just Jews but other communities and faiths who also attended to show their support.”

The employee added that the BBC had shown “insensitivity towards us which is going to be hard to repair.”

Staff compared the current situation with the BBC’s stance on the Pride parades in 2020, when Director General Tim Davie granted all staff the go ahead to participate.

A spokesperson for the broadcaster said: “The BBC is clear that antisemitism is abhorrent. We have established guidance around marches, which explains that different considerations apply depending on what you do for the BBC.

“Corporately, we have not issued any staff communication on any specific march this weekend but this does not mean discussions which consider the guidance have not taken place between colleagues.”

Fast Company Middle East issues list of Most Innovative Companies

Updated 27 November 2023

Fast Company Middle East issues list of Most Innovative Companies

  • Second edition features 42 reputations across 23 sectors

DUBAI: Business news magazine Fast Company, which launched its Middle East edition last year, has unveiled this year’s list of the region’s Most Innovative Companies.

The list recognizes 42 companies across 23 sectors, which include e-commerce, retail, consumer goods and media.

Ravi Raman, publisher of Fast Company Middle East, told Arab News: “The Most Innovative Companies list not only sends a positive signal to teams and stakeholders but also resonates globally, showcasing how companies in the Middle East are pushing the boundaries of innovation.

“I am truly impressed by the profound impact each honoree is making in their respective industries, which reaffirms our belief in the human spirit to imagine, create, and improve.”

Three companies were recognized in the media category: Al Arabiya News Channel for advancing technology in news delivery; Kapturise for being a one-stop solution for content creation; and Telfaz11 for extending creative and cultural influence beyond Saudi Arabia.

In the advertising, branding and PR category, five companies were chosen, with three of the five spots being bagged by advertising network Publicis Groupe Middle East and its agencies Leo Burnett and Saatchi & Saatchi.

The list also featured media intelligence provider Carma for delivering tailor-made content, and banking firm Mashreq for its innovative campaigns.

Advertising agency TBWA\RAAD was recognized in the workplaces category for creating shared goals through dynamic and flexible policies.

OSN was the only company to be featured in the entertainment category due to its inclusive content strategy.

Other companies in this year’s list include multinationals like L’Oreal Middle East and PepsiCo Middle East, as well as local entities like Masdar City and e&.

Media Oasis opens in Paris to support Riyadh’s bid to stage World Expo 2030

Updated 27 November 2023

Media Oasis opens in Paris to support Riyadh’s bid to stage World Expo 2030

  • Event hosted by Kingdom’s Ministry of Media
  • Showcases best of Saudi cultural, development projects

RIYADH: The Saudi Media Ministry is hosting the second Media Oasis event in Paris, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The event, which opened on Sunday and runs through Tuesday, is being held alongside a meeting to select the host city for World Expo 2030, for which Riyadh is in the running.

Media Oasis was launched by the Media Ministry to showcase the best of Saudi cultural and development projects and initiatives to visitors from around the world.

Covering 1,200 square meters within the Pavilion at Place Vendome, it comprises exhibitions and interactive displays, hospitality and networking spaces, and “Saudi Treasures” and “Riyadh 2030” areas.

It also provides media support to international news outlets taking part in the Expo meeting.

The ministry collaborated with numerous partners on the event, including the Saudi Tourism Authority, Ministry of Sports, the Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority, the Asir Region Development Authority, NEOM, Diriyah, the King Salman Park Project, Sports Boulevard, the Green Riyadh initiative, Riyadh Art, New Square Co., the Royal Institute of Traditional Arts and the Saudi Konoz initiative.