US seizes Iran's news outlets; charges 'Iranian disinformation'text_fields
The US seized on Tuesday Iranian government-affiliated media websites, as well as three of the Iraqi group Kataeb Hezbollah. The US Justice Department which initiated the action said they were hosted on US-owned domains in violation of sanctions, Al-Jazeera reported.
Visitors to leading Iranian media sites such as Press TV and Al-Alam, the country's main English language and Arabic language broadcasters, as well as the Al-Masirah TV channel of Yemen's Houthis, could see only single-page statements on Wednesday, informing that the website "has been seized by the United States Government" bearing the seals of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the US Commerce Department.
The 33 websites were held by the Iranian Islamic Radio and Television Union (IRTVU), which is reportedly run by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force (IRGC).
The US has included in its blacklist both IRTVU and IRGC. By this, the US makes it illegal for Americans, US companies, and foreign or non-American companies with US subsidiaries to deal with them or their affiliates.
Kataeb Hezbollah, the Iraqi group, designated by Washington as a terror group, owned three sites that were seized and is a military faction believed to have close ties to Tehran.
IRIB charged the United States with repressing freedom of expression.
The US government also took over the domain name of the news website Palestine Today, which reflects the viewpoints of Gaza-based groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad, redirecting the site to the same notice.
As for the Houthis' Al-Masirah, the website of their political wing, branded the action "American piracy and copyright confiscation."
"The government of the United States of America is banning the Al-Masirah website without any justification or even prior notice," they said.
A-Masirah quickly established a new website, using its name but swapping the .net domain for .com.
The US action also comes close on the heels of the election of new Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi, believed to be a hardliner and not ready to meet US President Joe Biden. Raisi wants the US to repeal the sanctions on Iran first, which were reimposed in 2018 following President Trump's decision to withdraw from the deal signed in 2015. The US sanctions were lifted then following a nuclear deal, named the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) signed with the involvement of Iran and EU countries and China.