US law enforcement seized the websites of two Iranian state-controlled news groups, Press TV and Al-Alam, and of the Al-Masirah TV channel of Yemen’s Huthis, statements posted on the websites showed on June 22.
Each site displayed a single page with a statement that it “has been seized by the United States Government” and making reference to US sanctions laws, accompanied by the seal of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the US Department of Commerce.
Press TV is Iran’s main English language broadcaster, and Al-Alam its main Arabic-language newscaster.
Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), the parent of Al-Alam, reported that other web domains, including Palestine-Al Youm, a Palestinian-directed broadcaster, and an Arabic-language religious and cultural channel were also seized.
Domains tied to Iran-backed groups in Iraq and to Hezbollah, the Lebanese military-political faction, were also frozen with the US Department of Justice message.
IRIB accused the US 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”.
Asked during a US State Department briefing about the Press TV seizure, spokesman Ned Price declined to comment, but referred reporters to the justice department which he said was expected to provide information soon.
Bahrain’s LuaLua TV, a channel run by opposition groups with offices in London and Beirut, was also closed, according to an AFP correspondent in the region.
In Yemen the Huthi said on the website of their political wing that they condemned “this 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.
Meanwhil LuaLua and Al-Masirah continued to broadcast new programmes, AFP journalists said.
The US maintains strict sanctions on Iran due to its nuclear weapons programmes and alleged support for terror.
Hundreds of Iranian organisations and individuals have been placed on the US sanctions blacklist.
The sanctions forbid US citizens, businesses and organisations with US operations from doing any business with Iran.
The US action came as Washington seeks to restore the 2015 agreement between Tehran and six major countries to freeze its nuclear programme in exchange for lifting sanctions.
In 2018 then-president Donald Trump ordered the US to withdraw from the agreement, alleging that Iran was not adhering to its commitments, though independent nuclear inspectors said it was.
Upon taking office this year, President Joe Biden committed to rejoining the agreement and talks with Iran on what both sides would do to resume the pact have gone on for weeks.
EU negotiator Enrique Mora on June 20 said those involved in the talks were “closer” to saving the Iran nuclear deal but that sticking points remain.
The US action also came just after Iranians elected ultraconservative cleric Ibrahim Raisi as president.