The United States blacklisted Iran's state broadcasting authority, Internet-policing agencies and a major electronics producer on Wednesday, an action that widened the American sanctions effort to pressure the Iranian government over not only its disputed nuclear program but also over the stifling of domestic dissent and access to information.
A statement by the Treasury Department also announced the formal start of tightened restrictions, under a law passed last year, meant to severely inhibit Iran's already weakened ability to repatriate earnings from the sale of oil, its most important export.
David S. Cohen, the Treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, who oversees the sanctions effort, said the actions were meant to "intensify the economic pressure against the Iranian regime."
He said, "We will also target those in Iran who are responsible for human rights abuses, especially those who deny the Iranian people their basic freedoms of expression, assembly and speech."
The new sanctions targeted Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, which is responsible for broadcast policy in Iran and oversees production at Iranian television and radio channels. Its director, Ezzatollah Zarghami, was included in the action.
Also targeted were the Iranian Cyber Police, which the Treasury Department described as an authority created three years ago to filter Web sites, monitor Internet behavior and hack into e-mail accounts of Iranians deemed to be subversive; and the Communications Regulatory Authority, which the Treasury Department described as an enforcer of Internet filtering and the blocking of Web sites deemed objectionable by the Iranian government.
In addition, the Treasury targeted Iran Electronics Industries, a producer of electronic systems and products, which the Treasury said was responsible for "goods and services related to jamming, monitoring and eavesdropping."
Under American sanctions laws, any United States property held by blacklisted companies and individuals is impounded, and they are prohibited from engaging in any transactions with American citizens.
Iran has been hurt by the accumulation of economic sanctions over the nuclear program, which the Iranians contend is for peaceful purposes despite suspicions by others, notably the United States, European Union and Israel, that the program is intended to give Iran the ability to make nuclear weapons. Talks on resolving the dispute, which have been stalled for more than six months, are set to resume in Kazakhstan on Feb. 26.
Iranian rights activists have a mixed view on the sanctions, which have halved Iran's oil exports, frozen the country out of the international banking system and caused a steep slide in the value of Iran's currency, the rial. Some activists worry that the consequences are hurting ordinary Iranians more than the country's leaders.
"While we are very much concerned about comprehensive economic sanctions that impact the livelihoods and well-being of average Iranian citizens, we welcome targeted sanctions against human rights violators and entities engaged in implementing repressive policies and censorship," said Hadi Ghaemi, the executive director of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, a New York-based advocacy group. "In particular, the sanctions against IRIB are important because this entity is a leading institution in restricting flow of information and is directly implicated in human rights abuses."world
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.