Congressman Royce Urges the Administration to Sanction Iranian State Broadcasters

November 2, 2012, Washington D.C. – On October 25, 2012, Congressman Edward R. Royce (R-CA) contacted Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner urging them to sanction individuals associated with the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) company. 

In his 2012 Nowruz (Iranian New Year) message to the people of Iran, President Barack Obama decried the Iranian government’s efforts to impose an “electronic curtain” on its citizens and vowed to help ease the Iranian people’s access to information.  As examples of such barriers, the president cited the jamming of satellite television and radio broadcasts as well as internet filtering and blocking access to popular websites. 

The issue of access to information for the Iranian people is of significant importance to the Iranian American community, two-thirds of whom, according to a 2011 PAAA Zogby -commissioned survey, communicate with family or friends in Iran on at least a monthly basis. The building of an electronic curtain that restricts information and ideas from entering and leaving Iran reduces the quality of life for Iranians and limits the Iranian American community’s ability to communicate with loved ones in Iran.

In his letter, Congressman Royce lauded a recent decision by Europe’s largest satellite provider, Eutelsat, to terminate its contract with the IRIB.  The company cites European Union human rights sanctions as the basis for their decision and follows the Iranian government’s efforts to jam satellite signals from being broadcasted to Iran.  The jamming of satellite signals is prohibited under the rules of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU).  Iran is a member of the ITU.  Its state-owned television and radio channels broadcast around the world, including the U.S. and Europe.  Eutelsat’s decision will affect viewers in Europe and the Middle East. 

By implementing new Iran human rights sanctions passed by Congress, Royce believes that the Obama administration can help bolster Eutelsat’s recent decision.  The Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012 directs the administration to present to Congress a list of individuals who have been identified as engaging in censorship and other activities against the Iranian people, including those who are responsible for ‘international frequency manipulation.”  Those listed are subject to having their assets frozen and to visa sanctions.

“Inclusion of individuals who have been involved with IRIB’s jamming efforts would be an important signal of support to our allies in Europe and a moral boost to U.S.international broadcasters,” explained Congressman Royce in his letter.  “Most importantly, it would be a show of solidarity with Iranians who are thirsting for unfiltered news and information.”

Congressman Royce is the Chairman of the Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade Subcommittee. In June of 2012, PAAIA, in conjunction with Congressman Royce and Congressman Gerald E. Connolly (D-VA) held a panel at the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Capitol Hill entitled “Behind the Electronic Curtain: Perspectives on Internet Restrictions and Access to Media in Iran.”

Click here to read Congressman Royce’s letter to Secretary Clinton and Secretary Geithner. 

While PAAIA is focused on domestic U.S. affairs as they relate to the Iranian American community and has not been a platform for promoting U.S. foreign policy vis-à-vis Iran, we recognize the importance of Iranian Americans being informed about such legislative initiatives and the positions of policy makers when it comes to such matters. 

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