The U.S. on Wednesday sanctioned six senior officials with Iran’s state-run media corporation over their role in broadcasting hundreds of forced confessions of Iranians whose relatives died in government custody.
U.S. officials claim the group aired interviews in which relatives claim their family members had not been killed by Iranian authorities during protests over the last several years but rather had died of accidental, unrelated causes.
“The Iranian government’s systemic reliance on forced confessions illustrates the government’s refusal to speak truth to its citizens and the international community,” Brian Nelson, the Treasury Department’s terrorism and financial intelligence chief, said in a statement.
He said the U.S. “will continue to hold Iranian officials and government institutions accountable for their human rights violations and their censorship of the Iranian people.”
The Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting had been blacklisted as an organization in 2013. The latest Treasury action targeted six officials by name, describing two of them, Ali Rezvani and Ameneh Sadat Zabihpour, as “interrogator journalists” who had extracted and aired forced confessions in the style of news documentaries.
Treasury alleged that the state media agency’s broadcasts “regularly make false and baseless accusations against Iranian citizens, dual nationals, and foreigners, and use falsified news to misinform and falsely incriminate perceived enemies of the regime.”
Dozens of Iranians have been killed in the last two months in protests stemming from the September death of Mahsa Amini, 22, held by Iranian authorities who claimed she was improperly wearing her hijab head scarf. But Tuesday’s sanctions were related to alleged confessions that predated the recent protests.
The new sanctions come as Iran’s independent media are under increased pressure both in and outside the country. Since protests broke out in September, more than 60 journalists have been detained.
The Treasury action blocks the six Iranian officials from any transactions involving their U.S. financial holdings and property, although Treasury did noy say whether they have any financial interests in the U.S.