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Iranian Activists Ask U.S. To Implement Sanctions On State Broadcaster

Head of Iran's state-run TV IRIB, Abdol-Ali Ali-Asgari (C), alongside other Iranian officials in the opening ceremony of Iran-Kala channel, on March 04, 2018.

In a letter to the Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, more than fifty Iranian dissidents have urged him to impose sanctions on the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) for its role in violation of human rights in the country.

Referring to IRIB’s newscast style, systematic abuse of human rights, propagating the Islamic Republic’s destabilizing policies in the region and disrupting free flow of information by jamming independent TV and radio shows, the dissidents have insisted that it is time to end Washington’s waiver of sanctions against the state-run organization.

The role of IRIB in paving the way for the Iranian establishment to abuse human rights still needs a thorough review, the signatories have affirmed in their July 7 letter, adding, “IRIB has continued human rights violations through airing forced confession of people suspected for being opponents of the regime.”

In a new series of aired confessions, IRIB’s national TV, Channel 1, has interviewed several users of social media. These interviews are practically “forced confessions” and blatant abuse of human rights, several human rights activists have argued.

Nevertheless, IRIB has dismissed the comments as baseless and unfounded.

Airing “confessions” of Iranian Instagram users triggered a barrage of criticism against IRIB to the extent that even a number of the regime’s supporters, including the Secretary of an ultraconservative students group, deplored it.

Furthermore, according to the letter, “IRIB has played, and continues to play, a pivotal role in the human rights abuses perpetrated in Iran, while it has been silent on the recent anti-regime demonstrations.”

The signatories have gone further by maintaining, while IRIB avoids covering any protest rallies, it brands the protesters as “foreign agents”, “terrorists”, “drug addicts” and “criminals”.

Meanwhile, IRIB televises images of protesters, requesting its viewers to come forward and identify them for the police and intelligence agents, the letter said.

“IRIB-affiliated TV/radio channels, including a number of international channels in Arabic (eg. Al-Alam and Al-Kawthar), operate as propaganda mouthpieces, while other IRIB resources are used to support the media activities of the regime’s various Middle Eastern proxy groups,” the letter said, concluding, “IRIB works against U.S. national security and foreign policy interests internationally, not just in Iran.”

A social media campaign, launched in tandem with the letter to Pompeo, features the hashtag #BanIRIB.

IRIB has been targeted by US sanctions since 2013, but President Barack Obama suspended the sanctions by a six-month waiver, as the result of a side agreement in which Tehran undertook not to jam outside broadcasts.

Obama’s successor, President Donald Trump has followed suit, so far.

It is not yet clear whether President Trump extends the suspension, when the time limit expires on July 12, or not.

However, citing a “well informed source”, Guardian reported on January 8, 2018, that the Trump Administration is reluctant to renew the waiver.

“President Trump has avoided imposing sanctions on Central Bank of Iran (CBI) since it could have negative impact on the ordinary people of Iran. Nevertheless, he is set to impose sanctions on a number of state-owned departments, including IRIB,” Guardian’s source said on condition of anonymity.

“The United States has been overwhelmed by the illusion that by imposing successive sanctions and mounting pressure on the Iranian people, it can find a way to slow down its collapse, ignoring the fact that this process only boosts unity and solidarity of the great Iranian nation,” IRIB’s English speaking Channel, Press TV cited IRIB’s CEO Abdol-Ali Ali-Askari as saying in a statement released on Sunday, July 1.

The US Treasury Department announced on Wednesday that Washington had imposed sanctions on several Iranian individuals and organizations, including the IRIB chief, over “human rights abuses” and “censorship.”

Earlier, on May 21, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had said that Washington would increase the financial pressure on Iran by imposing the "strongest sanctions in history" on the Islamic Republic if Tehran refused to change the course of its foreign and domestic policy.

IRIB, the only entity legally allowed to operate as broadcaster across Iran, runs scores of internet, Radio and TV networks, including provincial channels as well as extraterritorial TV channels in Arabic, English, French, Kurdish, Persian Dari, Russian and Turkish.

The head of the IRIB is directly appointed by the Islamic Republic’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and is accountable to nobody, but him.