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Muzzling press freedom: US sanctions IRIB chief, World Service head, other officials

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
This file picture shows a view of a major building of the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) in northern Tehran, Iran.

In another brazen attack on press freedom, the US government on Wednesday imposed sanctions on top officials of Iran’s state broadcaster, including the organization chief and head of the World Service.

In a statement, the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) said it was designating six senior employees of the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), which was designated by Washington in 2013.

It alleged that IRIB had broadcast "hundreds of forced confessions of Iranian, dual national, and international detainees in Iran."

The sanctions target IRIB chief Peyman Jebeli, head of IRIB World Service and the CEO of English-language Press TV television news network Ahmad Norouzi, IRIB Vice Director General Mohsen Barmahani, Director of Press TV’s Programs Department Yousef Pour-Anvari, as well as IRIB senior correspondents Ali Rezvani and Ameneh Sadat Zabihpour.

Media analysts believe that the latest US sanctions on Iranian media outlets and senior IRIB officials come as the White House has miserably failed in its project to topple Iran’s Islamic establishment, and install a vassal state in its place.

On Saturday, the European Union imposed sanctions on a number of Iranian institutions and individuals, including Press TV, over alleged “rights violations” following the recent foreign-backed riots in the country.

The European Union announced new sanctions on a further 29 Iranian officials and three organizations for alleged crackdown on protests, which began following the death of Mahsa Amini, a young Iranian woman, who collapsed in police custody and was pronounced dead a few days later at hospital.

The 29-member bloc imposed visa bans and asset freezes on Iranian Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi, four members of the police squad that arrested Amini, high-ranking members of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), including its provincial commanders, the commander of the Iranian Army's Ground Forces, and Press TV, which it accused of airing "forced confessions of detainees," an EU statement said.

IRIB's World Service in general, and Press TV in particular, has played a remarkable role as the counterweight to Western propagandist media for years, demolishing and debunking their lop-sided and unfair coverage of Iran and the region.

Press TV continues to challenge Western narratives and provide cutting-edge journalism based on truth and fairness. 

Jebelli condemns Western sanctions on Press TV.

Earlier on Wednesday, in a statement the IRIB chief condemned sanctions on Press TV, saying this is not the first time the West has acted against its own claims of being the defender of the freedom of speech and expression.

The head of the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting noted that Press TV is competing in an unequal arena, compared to other networks which enjoy considerable support of Western governments.

He emphasized that the latest sanctions indicate the EU is unable to tolerate Press TV’s minimal presence.

Experts believe that sanctions imposed on Press TV by the EU, and earlier by the government of Canada, are aimed at muzzling free speech and alternative views.

They have also highlighted the role played by Press TV during the recent riots, as the news channel made a great effort to counter fake narratives fostered by Western media concerning Iran’s riots.

Press TV’s website can also be accessed at the following alternate addresses:

Press TV News Roku