US government sanctions Iran for Internet censorship

The US government has announced sanctions against Iranian officials responsible for creating an "electronic curtain" on the Internet, censoring its citizens from the rest of the world.

The US State Department announced sanctions against four individuals and five organisations notorious for their harsh treatment of journalists and for restricting the freedom of information on the Internet.

Those sanctioned include Minister of Communication and IT Reza Taghipour, who is accused by the US of ordering satellite television broadcasts to be jammed and Internet connectivity restricted.

Two other culprits, Iran's Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance and its Press Supervisory Board, have been sanctioned for reportedly shutting several newspapers and torturing journalists.

The sanctions will include having all US assets frozen, a ban on travelling to the US and engaging in any business with US citizens.

In a statement by the US department, spokesperson Victoria Nuland said these individuals and groups "engaged in censorship or other activities that prohibit freedom of expression or assembly by citizens of Iran, or that limit access to print or broadcast media."

"Such abuses demonstrate the Iranian Government's ongoing campaign to censor its own citizens, curtail their freedoms, and to prevent the free flow of information both into and out of Iran," Nuland added.

"Countless activists, journalists, lawyers, students, and artists have been detained, censured, tortured, or forcibly prevented from exercising their human rights," she said.

In February, Iranian officials cut off the population's access to the Internet. After it was reinstated, Iranian citizens complained of mass censorship, with the BBC alleging that the Iranian government was denying access to its site and Persian TV station.

Most recently, in September, the Iranian government blocked YouTube indefinitely. Companies colluding with the government include AmnAfzar Gostar-e Sharif and PeykAsa, which are being sanctioned for monitoring Iranian web traffic and blocking access to Facebook, eBay and YouTube.