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News: International

U.S. Blacklists Iran Regime’s Communications Minister for Role in Censorship of Iran Protests

U.S. Blacklists Iran Regime’s Communications Minister for Role in Censorship of Iran Protests
Azari Jahromi Iranian Regime’s Communications Minister was Blacklisted by the U.S. Treasury Dept. on Nov 22, 2019.

The United States Department of the Treasury on Friday, November 22, imposed sanctions on Mohammad Javad Azari-Jahromi, the Iranian regime’s Minister of Information and Communications Technology, for his role in the unprecedented internet blackout in Iran.

"The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) took action today against Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi, Iran’s Minister of Information and Communications Technology, pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13846, for his role in the Iranian regime’s widescale internet censorship," the Treasury said in a statement.

While referring to the ongoing nationwide protests across in Iran, the Treasury added: "Internet access in Iran, managed by Azari Jahromi’s ministry, was blocked for several days in November based upon what Iranian authorities describe as national security concerns in the wake of anti-regime protests throughout the country." 

On November 18, Azari Jahromi said to a reporter: “Obviously, the [internet shutdown] has caused severe damage to businesses and the people, but preserving the security of the country with the guidance of the Supreme National Security Council is really important.” 

What Azari Jahromi meant by “preserving the security of the county,” of course, is to prevent the downfall of the Iranian regime by cutting the protesters’ communications among themselves and their link to the outside world. 

“Iran’s leaders know that a free and open internet exposes their illegitimacy, so they seek to censor internet access to quell anti-regime protests,” said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. 

“We are sanctioning Iran’s Minister of Information and Communications Technology for restricting internet access, including to popular messaging applications that help tens of millions of Iranians stay connected to each other and the outside world,” Secretary Mnuchin added.  

"A former member of Iran’s intelligence apparatus, Azari Jahromi was involved in surveillance operations during the state crackdown on peaceful protests in 2009, which significantly aided the authorities’ ability to identify, track, arrest, and imprison protesters," the Treasury said, adding: He has been the target of accusations that he personally interrogated multiple activists during this period." 

Background 

Following the spread of the protests at a stunning speed throughout Iran, the Iranian regime, in order to conceal its brutal crackdown on protesters, shut down the internet.  

According to an estimate by NetBlocks, an organization that tracks internet connectivity across the world, the internet in Iran has been shut down for more than 150 hours. Netblocks added that during the first four days, Iran’s internet outage yielded $1.478 billion in damage.

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