Iranian TV host Pouria Zeraati posted this image of himself in a hospital bed on March 30 after he was stabbed at his south London home on March 29. (Screenshot: X/@pouriazeraati)

Exiled Iranian journalist Pouria Zeraati stabbed in London

Washington, D.C., April 2, 2024— The Committee to Protect Journalists on Tuesday called for UK authorities to investigate the stabbing of an exiled Iranian television journalist in London and whether it could signal a new wave of cross-border repression by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). 

Pouria Zeraati, 36, a presenter for Iran International, was outside of his home in Wimbledon, south London on March 29 when a group of men attacked him. The assailants fled the scene by car, and Zeraati was hospitalized for treatment.

Although no motive has been identified in the case, nor any suspects apprehended, the incident led authorities to launch a counterterrorism investigation, since there has been an alarming increase in instances of critics abroad being targeted by the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Since its founding in 1979, the Islamic government in Iran has regularly used tactics of extraterritorial repression, including multiple assassinations in Western nations, that have gone unprosecuted.

“U.K. authorities must thoroughly investigate the attack on Pouria Zeraati and all threats to Iranian journalists and news organizations,” said Carlos Martinez de la Serna, CPJ program director in New York, on Tuesday. “Iranian journalists in exile remain highly vulnerable to extraterritorial repression. It is crucial that they have the protections they need and those responsible for these attacks are held accountable.”

Adam Ballie, a spokesperson for Iran International told CPJ on Tuesday that “along with our colleagues at BBC Persian, Iran International has been under threat, very heavy threats, for the last 18 months since the IRGC Commander Hossien Salami said in October 2022 on live TV ‘we’re coming for you,’ which they have consistently repeated.” 

“Our live coverage of Iran matters such as U.N. human rights, protests, Evin prison fire, economic and social welfare, all of which are not welcomed by the Iranian government and made us a target,” Ballie said.

The stabbing of Zeraati comes after a plot to assassinate two other Iran International news anchors—Sima Sabet and Fardad Farahzad—was uncovered late last year.

Sima Sabet, a former host of a prime time Iran International program that had the highest rating of any Farsi-language TV show, told CPJ on Monday that the London Metropolitan Police asked her to leave her home after Zeraati’s attack for her safety. Sabet, who resigned from her job in August 2023, said that online attacks against her ramped up after her coverage of nationwide protests in Iran, following the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Jina Amini in custody, and the revelation of a terror plot against Sabet. Sabet said that her decision to resign was not influenced by the attacks and that the threats against her had not stopped.

On Monday, Zeraati, in a post on his personal X account, said that he had been released from the hospital, and he and his wife have been moved to a safe house under the supervision of London’s Metropolitan Police. He also noted that counterterrorism police were making “good progress” and that “the suspects had purposefully planned this attack” and posed no threat to the general public in London or the rest of the U.K.

The Islamic Republic claims it was not behind the attack.  

“We deny any link to this story of this so-called journalist,” Mehdi Hosseini Matin, Chargé d’affaires at Iran’s embassy in London, wrote on his X account.

CPJ emailed the Iranian Foreign Ministry for comment on Iran International’s case of Pouria Ziaratti’ stabbing but did not receive a response.

According to CPJ research, Iran is among the world’s leading jailers of journalists.

Editor’s note: The ninth paragraph of this report has been updated to clarify the reason for Sabet’s resignation.