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February 11, 2014 12:26 pm

Obama Admin Pressed for Lifting Sanctions on Iranian Broadcaster Involved in Human Rights Abuses

avatar by Joshua Levitt

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry shakes hands with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. Photo: U.S. Department of State.

Watchdog group United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) on Tuesday called on the Obama Administration to reconsider its decision to lift sanctions on Iran’s state broadcaster, Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), which had been punished for its involvement in the Iranian regime’s human rights abuses. Among other offenses IRIB has jammed foreign broadcasts, televised forced confessions and broadcast show trials of political prisoners.

UANI said that while the U.S. and world powers agreed in November to lift sanctions tied to Iran’s economy in exchange for the regime allowing increased access to its nuclear facilities, they also agreed to maintain sanctions on areas tied to human rights abuses, and should stay that course.

“We urge the Obama administration to reconsider its decision to waive sanctions on IRIB,” said Ambassador Mark D. Wallace, UANI’s CEO. “The administration repeatedly pledged that the sanctions relief it granted Iran would not include those sanctions related to human rights. It must now uphold those promises, and maintain sanctions on IRIB given IRIB’s continued role in facilitating human rights abuses in Iran.”

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“Human rights sanctions must not be used as a diplomatic bargaining chip–they should be lifted only when the corresponding human rights violations have stopped,” Ambassador Wallace said. “No serious person believes that the regime has stopped using IRIB to spread propaganda and stifle dissent. Reports from Iran indicate that while the regime may have temporarily halted uplink jamming, it has continued localized downlink jamming of foreign broadcasts. As such, the Obama administration must not waive sanctions on IRIB.

Last week, the State Department’s Under Secretary for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman, who is leading the talks with Iran, told the Senate: “Even as we pursue negotiations of a comprehensive solution on Iran’s nuclear program, we will not relax our efforts to hold Iran accountable for its human rights violations and abuses, support for terrorism, and interference across the region.”

Similarly, in a press briefing about the agreement in January, a senior administration official said that the U.S. “will continue to vigorously enforce the vast array of sanctions that are not being suspended” and “continue to target Iran’s support for terrorism and human rights abuses.”

On February 6, 2013, the U.S. Treasury announced its sanctions on IRIB for its role in human rights violations.

UANI said its “Tech & Telecom Campaign” highlights the practices of firms that are involved in the Iranian regime’s digital suppression of Iranians.

In previous responses to UANI’s campaign, Spain’s Hispasat, Hong Kong’s Asiasat, Canada’s Telesat, British telecommunications company Arqiva, and European satellite provider Eutelsat ceased the broadcast of regime programming.

UANI has also created a “Geneva Interim Agreement Tracker” to show Iran’s progress on meeting the goals outlined in the agreement compared to the world’s response in removing sanctions, including the disbursal of billions of dollars in frozen international assets.

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