US sanctions Iranian state media officials over complicity in Tehran’s suppression of citizens

The U.S. is sanctioning six senior employees of an Iranian state-run media corporation for their alleged complicity in Tehran’s “mass suppression and censorship” of its people amid a crackdown on protesters.

The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) said Wednesday it was designating six senior employees of the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), which Washington previously designated for sanctions in 2013.

Iranian police arrive to disperse a protest to mark 40 days since the death in custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, whose tragedy sparked Iran’s biggest antigovernment movement in over a decade, in Tehran, Iran, Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2022.
(AP)

The Treasury said that IRIB has broadcast hundreds of forced confessions of Iranian, dual national and international detainees in Iran. The IRIB and its subsidiaries, the Treasury said, “act not as objective media outlets but rather as a critical tool in the Iranian government’s mass suppression and censorship campaign against its own people.”

The Treasury said the IRIB has produced and broadcast televised interviews of individuals being forced to confess that their relatives were not killed by Iranian authorities during nationwide protests but died “due to accidental, unrelated causes.”

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“The Iranian government’s systemic reliance on forced confessions illustrates the government’s refusal to speak truth to its citizens and the international community,” Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian E. Nelson said in a statement. “The United States remains committed to supporting the Iranian people as they continue their peaceful protests. We will continue to hold Iranian officials and government institutions accountable for their human rights violations and their censorship of the Iranian people.”

Iranians protest 22-year-old Mahsa Amini’s death after she was detained by the morality police, in Tehran, Sept. 20, 2022, in this photo taken by an individual not employed by the Associated Press and obtained by the AP outside Iran.
(AP Photo/Middle East Images, File)

Mass protests have rocked Iran since September over the police custody death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini. She had been arrested for allegedly violating the Islamic Republic’s strict dress code.

Thousands of people have been detained for participating in peaceful protests and at least one person has been sentenced to death. The U.N. human rights office has called on Iran’s government to release the detainees, faulting its “increasing harshness” as Western countries seek to ratchet up scrutiny of Tehran’s crackdown against demonstrators.

Separately, Germany and Iceland are leading a push led mostly by Western countries for the U.N.-backed Human Rights Council to create a special “fact-finding mission” — a team of independent rights experts — to look into alleged rights violations in the Islamic Republic linked to the protests.

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The council, which is made up of 47 member states and whose composition is tweaked every year, is set to hold a special session on Nov. 24 to debate the situation in Iran and ultimately vote on the proposal that includes the call for the fact-finding mission.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.