US sanctions Iran minister over Internet censorship

Shops destroyed during demonstrations against petrol price hikes, in Shahriar, west of Tehran. (AFP)
Updated 23 November 2019

US sanctions Iran minister over Internet censorship

  • Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin: We are sanctioning Iran’s Minister of Information and Communications Technology for restricting Internet access
  • Mnuchin: 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

WASHINGTON: The US Treasury slapped punitive sanctions on Iran’s communications minister, Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi, Friday after the Tehran regime blocked Internet communications amid violent protests triggered by a petrol price hike.
“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,” said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in a statement.
“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,” Mnuchin said.
The protests erupted across the country on November 15, after the price of petrol was raised by as much as 200 percent.
Officials have confirmed five deaths, while Amnesty International said that more than 100 demonstrators were believed to have been killed after authorities reportedly used live ammunition to quell the protests, which brought attacks on police stations and petrol stations and some looting of shops.
The Treasury said Azari Jahomi is a former official of the Ministry of Intelligence who has advanced Internet censorship since becoming minister two years ago.
He has “also been involved in surveillance against opposition activists,” the Treasury said.
Internet service remained mostly blocked on Friday for a sixth day, with officials and news agencies saying the blackout was gradually being rolled back.
The sanctions would freeze financial assets and property Azari Jahomi has in US jurisdictions and forbid Americans or US businesses, especially banks, from dealing with him.
On Thursday, President Donald Trump accused Iran of blocking the Internet to cover up “death and tragedy” resulting from the protests.
“Iran has become so unstable that the regime has shut down their entire Internet System so that the Great Iranian people cannot talk about the tremendous violence taking place within the country,” Trump tweeted.
“They want ZERO transparency, thinking the world will not find out the death and tragedy that the Iranian Regime is causing!” he wrote.


Lebanese block roads as protests enter fourth month

Updated 30 min 50 sec ago

Lebanese block roads as protests enter fourth month

  • The protest movement rocking Lebanon since October 17
  • The protest movement is in part fueled by the worst economic crisis

BEIRUT: Protesters blocked several main roads across Lebanon on Friday as unprecedented demonstrations against a political elite accused of corruption and incompetence entered their fourth month.
The protest movement rocking Lebanon since October 17 has resurged this week, over delays in forming a new cabinet to address the country’s growing economic crisis.
No progress seemed to have been made on a final lineup, which protesters demand be made up solely of independent experts and empty of traditional political parties.
In central Beirut, dozens of protesters Friday stood between parked cars blocking a key thoroughfare linking the city’s east and west.
“We blocked the road with cars because it’s something they can’t move,” Marwan Karam said.
The protester condemned what he regarded as efforts to form yet another government representing the usual carve-up of power between the traditional parties.
“We don’t want a government of masked political figures,” the 30-year-old told AFP. “Any such government will fall. We won’t give it any chance in the street.”
Forming a new cabinet is often a drawn-out process in Lebanon, where a complex system seeks to maintain balance between the various political parties and a multitude of religious confessions.
Nearby, Carlos Yammine, 32, said he did not want yet another “cake-sharing government.”
“What we have asked for from the start of the movement is a reduced, transitional, emergency government of independents,” he said, leaning against his car.


Elsewhere, demonstrators closed roads including in Lebanon’s second city of Tripoli, though some were later reopened, the National News Agency said.
The protest movement is in part fueled by the worst economic crisis that Lebanon has witnessed since its 1975-1990 civil war.
The protests this week saw angry demonstrators attack banks following the imposition of sharp curbs on cash withdrawals to stem a liquidity crisis.
On Thursday night, protesters vandalized three more banks in the capital’s Hamra district, smashing their glass fronts and graffitiing ATMs, an AFP photographer said.
Earlier, Lebanon’s security services released most of the 100-plus protesters detained over the previous 48 hours, lawyers said.
Human Rights Watch on Friday condemned the arrests and the response of security forces to protests outside a police station on Wednesday night demanding detainees be released.
“The unacceptable level of violence against overwhelmingly peaceful protesters on January 15 calls for a swift independent and transparent investigation,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at the rights watchdog.
Over the past few months, the Lebanese pound — long pegged to the US dollar at 1,507 — has fallen in value on the unofficial market to around 2,500.
The World Bank has warned that the poverty rate in Lebanon could rise from a third to a half if the political crisis is not remedied fast.