US sanctions Iranian news outlets ahead of first anniversary of Mahsa Amini’s death

PressTV, Tasnim News Agency, and Fars News Agency are among dozens of individuals and entities facing new punitive measures.

On 15 September, the US Treasury Department issued new economic sanctions against Iranian news organizations PressTV, Tasnim News Agency, and Fars News Agency for allegedly being “connected to repression” during last year’s protests and violent riots sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini.

“Today, the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) is designating 29 individuals and entities in connection with the Iranian regime’s violent suppression of nationwide protests following the death of Mahsa ‘Zhina’ Amini in custody of its ‘Morality Police,’” the US Treasury statement reads.

Amini, a 22-year-old woman from Iran’s Kurdistan province, passed away on 16 September 2022 due to severe cerebral hypoxia after being detained by the Gasht-e-Ershad, or ‘Guidance Patrol’ (incorrectly translated as “Morality Police”) for the alleged improper wearing of the hijab three days earlier.

However, eyewitnesses of her detention alleged that she had been mistreated

Her death caused great uproar among the Iranian populace, who took to the streets en masse to demand justice for the 22-year-old Kurdish woman.

However, these protests soon turned violent in western Iran, as Kurdish separatist groups and western intelligence agencies began funneling weapons and fighters into the country in an attempt to topple the government, with a death toll numbering in the hundreds.

Thousands of protesters — at least 22,000 according to Iran’s Judiciary, including over 700 college students — were arrested, although over 95 percent of them were released.

In addition, about 50 protesters were given death sentences by the courts, although the government has only executed seven, with at least two of whom were accused of taking part in the murder of security forces.

The sanctions issued on Friday targeting Iranian news outlets allegedly stem from their reporting of the events, which often highlighted misinformation and outright fabrications by western media outlets, including claims that Iran at one point had “sentenced 15,000 protesters to death.”

The White House has nonetheless ignored the long list of fake news published to incite regime change in Iran, mainly spread by channels like Saudi-owned Iran International, Manoto TV, and the Farsi division of the BBC.

Muhammad Sahimi, the former lead political analyst for the website PBS/Frontline: Tehran Bureau, writes for Responsible Statecraft, “These programs broadcast and posted on their websites almost any video clip that was supposedly sent from Iran without checking its authenticity.”

He further states, “While the people were struggling in streets to peacefully confront the security forces, the Iran International broadcast statements of a little-known group dubbed ‘children of neighborhoods’ calling for attacks on governmental buildings. The group is linked to the cult-like Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MEK) that up until 2012 was listed by the State Department as a terrorist organization and is universally despised by all Iranians.”

Besides the fake news campaign against Iran, the country also faced violent attacks from separatist groups located in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region (IKR). According to a former White House official, the groups were being armed by the west.

Others targeted by Washington’s latest round of sanctions include “18 key members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Iran’s Law Enforcement Forces (LEF), as well as the head of Iran’s Prisons Organizations.”

The sanctions were issued despite successful talks between Iran and the US for a prisoner exchange deal and the release of billions in seized Iranian funds.

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