US ‘Seizes’ Iran’s State-Linked News Websites

The US Justice Department announced last Tuesday that it seized 33 Iranian-state-led news websites, accusing them of spreading disinformation and propaganda.

The US Justice Department (DOJ) announced last Tuesday that it has seized 33 Iranian-state-led news websites. It accused them of spreading disinformation and push Iranian propaganda forward around the globe. The seized news websites include the Iranian English language Press TV, the Iranian Arabic Language run AL Alam TV channel, and Yemeni-Houthis run Al Masirah TV channel. The takedown is done “as a part of law enforcement action” by the US Bureau of Industry and Security, Office of Export Enforcement, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

Marziah Hashemi, a prominent news anchor for Press TV, told the Associated Press that the channel was aware of the seizure but had no further information.

She said, “We are just trying to figure out what this means.”

Hashemi also said via Twitter: “Is this another example of US freedom of the press where if DC doesn’t like what you say, your domain is seized? They try to eliminate you. But the voice of the voiceless will not be silenced.”

Moreover, the Iranian news agency YJC said, “the US move demonstrates that calls for freedom of speech are lies.”

However, according to DOJ, it says that the news website did not obtain the required license from the US government to use their domains.

The takedown move could also be linked to the Washington-Tehran tensions over the nuclear deal, where Iran violated the imposed sanctions over it by the US.

The DOJ said in a statement, “Today, pursuant to court orders, the United States seized 33 websites used by the Iranian Islamic Radio and Television Union (IRTVU) and three websites operated by Kata’ib Hizballah (KH), in violation of US sanctions.”

This is not the first seizure of its kind to Iranian news websites. Last October, the DOJ announced the takedown of nearly 100 Iranian news websites run by the Revolutionary Guard.

It says that they lead a “global disinformation campaign” to influence US policy.

Furthermore, US Multinational Tech company, Google, has taken on Press TV more than any other Iranian news outlet, despite its wide readership.

In March, Google blocked access to its YouTube channel for the seventh time without any prior notice. It claims that it shows “violations to community guidelines.”

The social media platform, Facebook, has also in the same month shut their account down for, as they claim, failing to “Follow our Community Standards.”

In addition, journalist Alex Rubinstein, said, “Two years ago, the FBI detained without explanation Press TV journalist Marziah Hashemi. Today they seized the entire website.”

US-Iran relations

The takedown happens amid the tensions between Iran and the US over the tattered Iranian 2015 nuclear deal.

The tensions escalated when ex-president Donald Trump withdrew from Tehran’s nuclear deal and imposed devastating sanctions on Iran.

This led Iran to abandon the fertilization limit of uranium. Now, the country is enriching uranium to 60%, which is the highest level ever.

The decision to takedown Iranian news websites and TV channels was preceded by Raisi’s statement to the conference on Monday when he said that there are no possibilities of meeting with President Joe Biden or negotiating over the Iranian ballistic missile program and support for militias.

Ebrahim Raisi, the newly elected Iranian President, is a hardliner who is well-known for his hostility to the West.

It seems that tensions between both parties would take a long time to calm and reach a deal satisficing to them.

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