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US whacks sanctions on Iranians for web, TV censorship

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The US has announced sanctions against Iran's communications minister and three other Iranians, as well as five companies and government departments in the Middle Eastern nation, for censoring the internet and media.

The State Department said a statement yesterday it will prohibit American firms and individuals from doing business with the four individuals and five organisations, and banned them from visiting the North American country. Any assets the Iranians have in the US will also be blocked or frozen.

The US government has chastised Iran for its treatment of journalists and bloggers, and its censorship policies, and it hasn’t held back from sanctions against high-ranking officials and government bodies.

The Minister of Communication and Information Technology Reza Taghipour has been barred from the US for ordering the jamming of satellite TV broadcasts and restricting internet connectivity, the State Department said. Iran’s Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance was also included in the sanctions for its censorship, for closing newspapers and for detaining journalists, along with the Press Supervisory Board.

“Countless activists, journalists, lawyers, students, and artists have been detained, censured, tortured, or forcibly prevented from exercising their human rights,” the department stated. “With the measures we are taking today, we draw the world’s attention to the scope of the regime’s insidious actions, which oppress its own people and violate Iran’s own laws and international obligations.

“We will continue to stand with the Iranian people in their quest to protect their dignity and freedoms and prevent the Iranian Government from creating an 'electronic curtain' to cut Iranian citizens off from the rest of the world.”

Iran briefly blocked access to Gmail accounts in the country for a few weeks in September and October while the Islamic world was outraged by an amateur US movie that mocked Islam. The communications ministry later said that blocking Gmail was a mistake, and it was only trying to block YouTube where the controversial footage was posted.

The State Department also walloped the Centre to Investigate Organised Crime, which had helped to identify people who were publishing material online that insulted the government and questioned election results. The head of the Iranian police, Esma’il Ahmadi Moghaddam, was also on the list, as well as Ali Fazli, a deputy commander of the Basij militia.

Iranian software companies AmnAfzar Gostar-e Sharif and PeykAsa, and their founder Rasool Jalili, were hit with sanctions for monitoring web traffic and blocking access to Facebook, eBay and YouTube. ®

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