The United States has announced new sanctions targeting those in Iran responsible for censorship activities, including satellite jamming, filtering websites, monitoring internet usage, and using state media to broadcast forced confessions.
“We will. . .target those in Iran who are responsible for human rights abuses, especially those who deny the Iranian people their basic freedoms of expression, assembly and speech,” said Treasury Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David S. Cohen.
The sanctions mean that any property or interests in the United States of designated individuals and entities are blocked, and U.S. citizens are prohibited from conducting any transaction with them.
Everyone has the right to “hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
The sanctions name the state-owned broadcasting organization the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, or IRIB, and its director Ezzatollah Zarghami. Iran uses IRIB as a tool in its ongoing crackdown on dissent. According to human rights groups, the State media has broadcast show trials and forced confessions, such as that of formerly imprisoned Newsweek journalist Maziar Bahari in 2009.
In addition, the IRIB consistently filters and jams foreign broadcasts on radio and television, including the BBC, VOA and others, using both orbital and terrestrial jamming to prevent Iranians’ access to news and information.
Iran Electronics Industries, or IEI, were also sanctioned by the Treasury Department. Previously sanctioned for its connections to Iran’s Weapons of Mass Destruction Program, IEI supplies the Iranian government with tools to jam radio and television broadcasts as well as cellular networks and Wi-Fi. It provides equipment to spy on text messages, internet usage and other communications, increasing the surveillance abilities of the Iranian authorities and allowing further crackdown on activism and free speech.
Iran’s Cyber Police, also named in the sanctions, carry out such surveillance. They work to filter websites, monitor internet behavior and hack dissident e-mail accounts. They have arrested numerous bloggers and internet activists, including Sattar Beheshti, who died in custody, allegedly during interrogation, in early November. The sanctions designate the related Communications Regulatory Authority or CRA, which enforces the Iranian government requirements to filter internet content, as well.
Article 19 of the Declaration of Human Rights, which Iran has ratified, states that everyone has the right to “hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
The Iranian government’s censorship activities are in clear violation of this provision. The U.S. urges Iran to adhere to its international obligations and allow the Iranian people to freely exercise their fundamental human rights.