RNA - A source has told the Guardian newspaper that the Saudi prince, who is also known as MBS and is likely responsible for the murder of Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, is the force behind Iran International.
The source told the Guardian that Saud al-Qahtani, who served as media adviser to MBS and was among several senior officials removed in connection with Khashoggi’s murder, was involved in the funding of Iran International.
“It is money coming from the royal court,” the source said, when speaking about the Saudi crown prince.
Volant Media, the company that runs Iran International, has a director named Adel Abdulkarim, who is a Saudi national. He has had a long working relationship with well-connected Saudi executives, some of who have links to the Saudi ruling family.
“While Saudi Arabia shows zero tolerance for criticism of its absolute monarchy, as underlined by Khashoggi’s murder, it is setting up media organizations in other languages promoting free speech,” the Guardian said.
The disclosures contradict the channel’s claim that it has editorial independence, and come at a time of growing fears about a number of Saudi-linked stations operating across London.
Iran International emerged abruptly on the London media scene last year, with many of its 100 or so employees receiving generous salaries, often double what rivals paid, but has been elusive about its source of funding, according to the Guardian.
The station, which is operating out of Chiswick, a district in London, has become a hub of anti-Iran Persian language channels, which also include BBC’s Persian service.
According to one source, Saudi Arabia gave $250 million (£197 million) in funding to help the launch of Iran International, which runs no commercial advertising.
“It appears that Iran International is part and parcel of the Saudi crown prince’s decision to take a more aggressive posture against Iran, emboldened, no doubt, by the Trump administration,” said Eskandar Sadeghi-Boroujerdi, a postdoctoral research fellow in modern Iranian history at the University of Oxford.
Earlier this summer, the station was criticized for broadcasting live coverage of a rally by the anti-Iran terrorist group Mujahedin Khalq Organization (MKO), which has links to Saudi Arabia and was once listed as a terrorist organization in the US and Europe.
According to Press TV, senior officials in the administration of US President Donald Trump, including National Security Adviser John Bolton, as well as Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, are advocates of MKO.
Despite the damning revelations, Rob Beynon, the acting head of Iran International, denied that the television station was getting orders from the Saudi government.
However, he did not deny that the channel was funded by Riyadh.
“Our output is governed not by any external individuals but by our editorial guidelines, which are published in English and Farsi on our website,” Beynon said.