Action a Response to Internet, Media Censorship
San Francisco, CA -- (SBWIRE) -- 11/20/2012 -- The United States, late Thursday, announced it had imposed sanctions on Iran in response to the nation’s government’s recent media and internet censorship.
Iranian Communications Minister Reza Taghipour is accused of blocking international satellite television broadcasts and clamping down on internet access, according to U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland.
Iranian internet users were unable to access their Gmail accounts from late September through early October.
The U.S. insists on preventing the “Iranian government from creating an ‘electronic curtain’ to cut Iranian citizens off from the rest of the world,” said Nuland.
The State Department and the U.S. Treasury placed four people and five government bodies under sanctions for “censorship or other activities that prohibit, limit or penalize freedom of expression or assembly by citizens of Iran.”
These individuals and entities were also accused of reducing “access to print or broadcast media, including by jamming international satellite broadcasts into Iran,” Nuland said in a statement. She decried the “regime’s insidious actions.”
Mohammad Reza Miri, a member of Iran’s telecommunications ministry committee charged with filtering the internet in his country, told a news agency that the recent Gmail block was an inadvertent result of attempts to censor Google’s YouTube site.
“Unfortunately, we do not yet have enough technical know-how to differentiate between these two services. We wanted to block YouTube and Gmail was also blocked, which was involuntary,” he said.
Iran has blocked YouTube since 2009 after anti-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad demonstrators posted videos of themselves protesting Ahmadinejad’s re-election online. “We absolutely do not want YouTube to be accessible,” said Miri.
The U.S. also sanctioned the Iranian Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance for shutting down newspapers and detaining journalists, the Press Supervisory Board, and the Centre to Investigate Organised Crime, which helped “identify Internet users who published material insulting government officials,” the U.S. Treasury said in a statement.
”Finding that balance between preventing technology that could constrain and permitting technology that would expand their access to information is kind of a difficult question,” a senior State Department official told journalists.
Others included in the designations were deputy commander of the Basij militia, Ali Fazli, accused of launching attacks on foreign websites, Esmail Ahmadi Moghaddam, Iran police chief accused of tracking internet activities in the nation, and Iranian software companies AmnAfzar Gostar-e Sharif and Peyk Asa, as well as their founder, Rasool Jalili, for monitoring online traffic, and attempting to cut off access to Facebook, eBay and YouTube.
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