Iranian state media have published the photos, names and addresses of nine exiled reporters who are set to cover the 2022 World Cup starting later this month in Qatar, warning them it would be their "last supper."
The named journalists are living abroad and are working for the BBC Persian Service, Iran International and Manoto, three London-based Persian-language news channels.
IranWire’s sports reporter Payam Younesipour is among them, along with legendary sports journalist Mazdak Mirzaei. The others are: Neda Jenab, Pourya Jafreh, Omid Khalli Tarishi, Zahra Alipour, Mehdi Rostampour, Zahra Alipour, Arash Hafizi.
A report by the Iranian newspaper Farhikhtegan described the nine journalists as "terrorists" before state media said their stay in Qatar will be their "last supper."
Iran has been rocked by a wave of protests since the September death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in the custody of Tehran’s morality police. The largely peaceful demonstrations have grown to become the biggest challenge to Iran’s regime in years. The unrest triggered a heavy-handed crackdown in which security forces killed more than 300 people. Several thousand people were also arrested, including sports journalists.
Younesipour lives in Austria. He has informed local police about both direct and indirect threats he had received after protests erupted across Iran in September.
"I believe I have never acted against international regulations and the interests of the Iranian people. These threats are an old method used by the Islamic Republic,” he said, adding: “I will continue to work.”
Reza Moini, a journalist and former head of Reporters Without Borders’ Iran/Afghanistan desk, told IranWire that threats made against Iranian journalists should be taken seriously. He said they were part of the Iranian authorities’ efforts to silence them.
Lawyer Musa Barzin Khalifehlo said: "If something like kidnapping is to happen, they don't give clues in advance and don't make a public announcement. Therefore, the publication of this threatening report is meant to intimidate activists abroad."
Earlier this week, the intelligence minister called Iran International a "terrorist organization," warning that any kind of connection with the Saudi-funded media outlet “will be considered to be tantamount to entering the field of terrorism and a threat to national security.”
Minister Ismail Khatib made the comments after Iran International’s broadcaster said that two of its British-Iranian journalists working in Britain have received “death threats from the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps."