On June 22, the United States Justice Department took down 36 Iranian websites for violating the sanctions issued by the US. The websites are said to be a part of a disinformation campaign and reportedly associated with violent organisations.
In a statement, the Justice Department said, “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.” It must be mentioned that KH has been listed as a Foreign Terror Organisation by the US.
According to the Justice Department, the 33 domains used by IRTVU were registered by a US company. Reportedly, IRTVU did not seek a license from the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control before using the domains. Similarly, the three websites of the Kata’ib Hizballah also did not have any license. “This website has been seized,” read a notice on the top of such websites.
It further stated, “The domain alalamtv.net has been seized by the United States Government in accordance with a seizure warrant issued pursuant to 18 U.S.C 981, 982 and 50 U.S.C. 1701-1705 as part of a law enforcement action by the Bureau of Industry and Security, Office of Export Enforcement and Federal Bureau of Investigation.”
Crackdown by the US Justice Department on Iranian websites
The notices were issued shortly after the appointment of Ebrahim Raisi as the President of Iran. Raisi is a well-known Islamic fundamentalist and a fierce critic of the United States. They appeared on Iranian media websites such as Alalam TV, Almasirah, Lualua TV, Press TV, and sites associated with Iran such as Yemen’s Houthi movement, Masirah TV.
In October last year, the US Justice Department seized 92 domains used by the Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to spread disinformation across the world by posing as independent media outlets. The United States wants to revive the 2015 nuclear deal to stop its nuclear power project. In return, Iran would be allowed to return to the global oil market.
It must be mentioned that the deadline of the monitoring pact between the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Iran expired on June 24, thereby complicating diplomatic efforts.
Iran condemns US move
Meanwhile, many of the websites resurfaced through other domain names. Iran condemned the move and warned that it could derail ongoing talks about reviving a nuclear deal. While speaking about the US’ actions, the Director of Iran’s President’s Office Mahmoud Vaezi remarked, “We are using all international and legal means to… condemn… this mistaken policy of the United States. It appears not constructive when talks for a deal on the nuclear issue are underway.”
Seized news website Press TV slams Biden administration
Besides, Iranian news outlet YJC agency claimed that the US decision to seize domains of the country’s news website was a reflection of the fact that ‘calls for freedom of speech are lies’. Press TV, whose website was also seized by the US, slammed the Justice Department for curbing freedom of speech.
“Just imagine for a second if Iran had gone and permanently seized the websites of Western outlets. Just imagine the outrage that would ensue.”@TheCommuniqueRM— Press TV (@PressTV) June 28, 2021
Watch in full: https://t.co/YjG7y2c1BH pic.twitter.com/3DSDhPdjqs
Journalist Richard Medhurst said, “Just imagine Iran had seized the US websites such as CNN and BCC and the outrage it would have ensued. Where is the outrage now when the US shuts down 33 foreign news sites?” He slammed the American liberals and leftists for staying silent, despite freedom of speech being under attack. “When it comes to Imperialism, you really get to see their true colours and where they stand. What the US has done to Press TV and other outlets is outrageous… It’s an attack on the foreign press and foreign journalists,” Richard Medhurst concluded.