US seizes Iranian state news sites
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The US Department of Justice said on Wednesday it seized 33 Iranian government-controlled media websites, as well as three from Iraqi group Kataeb Hezbollah, which it said were hosted on US-owned domains in violation of sanctions. .
Visitors to major Iranian media sites such as Press TV and Al-Alam, the country’s main English and Arabic language broadcasters, as well as Yemen’s Al-Masirah Houthi TV channel, have been faced with statements from a single page stating that the website “has been seized by the government of the United States” accompanied by the seals of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the United States Department of Commerce.
The 33 websites were owned by the Islamic Radio and Television Union of Iran (IRTVU), itself controlled by the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
The IRTVU and IRGC have both been blacklisted for US sanctions, making it illegal for Americans, US companies, and foreign or non-US companies with US subsidiaries to do business with them or their subsidiaries.
Kataeb Hezbollah, the Iraqi group that had three seized sites, is an uncompromising military faction with close ties to Tehran that Washington has officially designated as a terrorist group.
Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), Al-Alam’s immediate parent company, reported that other web domains, including Palestine-Al Youm, a Palestinian-run broadcaster, and a religious channel and culture in Arabic were among those seized.
Bahrain’s LuaLua TV, a channel run by opposition groups with offices in London and Beirut, has also been frozen by the United States, according to an AFP correspondent in the region.
IRIB accused the United States of cracking down on free speech and joining forces with Israel and Saudi Arabia “to block pro-resistance media exposing the crimes of American allies in the region “.
On their political wing’s website, the Huthi described the action as “American piracy and copyright confiscation.”
“The government of the United States of America is banning the Al-Masirah website without any justification or even notice,” they said.
A-Masirah quickly created a new website, using his name but changing the domain from .net to .com.
Meanwhile, LuaLua and Al-Masirah continued to broadcast new programs, AFP journalists said.
– ‘Malicious influence operations’ –
The IRTVU was named last year for sanctions for “brazen attempts to sow discord among the electoral population by spreading disinformation online and carrying out malicious influence operations aimed at deceiving American voters,” he said. said the Ministry of Justice.
“The IRTVU and others like it, disguised as news outlets or media outlets, have targeted the United States with disinformation campaigns and malicious influence operations,” the department said in a statement.
Meanwhile, US officials have linked Kataeb Hezbollah to rocket attacks and other attacks on sites in Iraq where US soldiers and diplomats reside, and claim the groups are supported by the Guard Corps. the Iranian revolution.
The Department of Justice did not identify the US company or companies that owned the domains hosting the websites, nor explained how they were able to host them contrary to the sanctions.
The US action came as Washington seeks to reinstate the 2015 agreement between Tehran and six major countries to freeze its nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of sanctions.
In 2018, then-President Donald Trump ordered the United States to withdraw from the deal, alleging that Iran was not meeting its commitments, despite independent nuclear inspectors saying so.
Upon taking office this year, President Joe Biden pledged to join the deal, and talks with Iran over what the two sides would do to take back the pact have gone on for weeks.
EU negotiator Enrique Mora said on Sunday that those involved in the talks were “closer” to salvaging the Iran nuclear deal, but sticking points remain.
The US action also came just after the Iranians chose the ultra-conservative cleric Ibrahim Raisi as president in an election the US State Department called neither free nor fair.
© 2021 AFP