A UK-based Iranian TV station is being funded through a secretive offshore entity and a company whose director is a Saudi Arabian businessman with close links to the Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, the Guardian can reveal.
The disclosures are likely to raise concerns about the editorial independence of Iran International, and comes at a time of growing fears about a number of Saudi-linked stations operating across London.
A source has told the Guardian that Prince Mohammed, who many believe is responsible for the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi, is the force behind Iran International. The station, which is operating out of Chiswick, has not denied claims that it receives its funding from the Saudi royal court.
Iran International TV emerged abruptly on the London media scene last year; many of the 100-strong staff network were offered generous salaries, often double what rivals paid, but was elusive about its source of funding.
Millions of Iranians frustrated with a state broadcaster hobbled by censorship watch satellite channels via illegal rooftop dishes. London has become a hub of such exiled Iranian channels, which also include BBC’s Persian service and Manoto TV, which has broadcast Iranian versions of The X Factor and Come Dine With Me.
The source claimed Saud al-Qahtani, the crown prince’s information tsar, who was among two senior officials removed in connection with the Khashoggi affair, was involved in the funding behind Iran International TV.
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