US Justice Department has seized 33 Iranian government-affiliated media websites, as well as three of the Iraqi group Kataeb Hezbollah, which it said were hosted on US-owned domains in violation of sanctions.
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, were met with single-page statements on Wednesday, declaring the website “has been seized by the United States Government” accompanied by 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).
In what seems to be a coordinated action, a similar message appears on the websites of Iranian and regional television networks that claims the domains of the websites have been “seized by the United States Government.” pic.twitter.com/JloU56LvpL
Both IRTVU and IRGC have been placed on the US sanctions blacklist, making it illegal for Americans, US companies, and foreign or non-American companies with US subsidiaries to have business with them or their subsidiaries.
Kataeb Hezbollah, the Iraqi group which owned three sites that were seized, is a military faction with close ties to Tehran that Washington has formally designated a terror group.
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.
Bahrain’s LuaLua TV, a channel run by opposition groups with offices in London and Beirut, was also seized by the US.
IRIB accused the United States of repressing freedom of expression and joining forces with Israel and Saudi Arabia “to block pro-resistance media outlets exposing the crimes of US allies in the region”.
On the website of their political wing, the Houthis 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.