On June 22, 36 Iranian-linked websites were blocked as many of them were related to violent organizations and were spreading disinformation. All the sites were replaced with a notice saying that as a part of law enforcement action, the sites had been seized. The sites even included the state-run channel of Iran named Press TV. Many of the sites came back online in few hours, along with new domain addresses.
In a statement, the US Department of Justice said it had seized three websites of Iran-backed Kataib Hezbollah militia and 33 websites that were used by the IRTVU in violation of US sanctions. Iran government components used the sites and disguised as media outlets or news organizations in order to target the US and operated disinformation campaigns as well as malign influence operations, it said. The US justice department also alleges that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps owned or controlled the IRTVU, which the US declared as a foreign terrorist organization back in 2019.
A US company owned all the domains of IRTVU, and it had not taken any license from the Office of Foreign Assets Control of the US Treasury before using them, the US justice department added. The websites were unable to be accessed on June 22, and notices appeared in the Press TV website of Iran, Al Alam, an Arabic language news site, and in many other Iranian websites.
The US was Accused of Restricting Freedom of Expression
Iran criticized the seizures done by the US government and warned that they were not at all constructive for talks focusing on reviving a nuclear deal. The Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting or IRIB, a state broadcaster, accused the United States of repressing the freedom of expression and is trying to restrict pro-resistance media outlets from exposing the US allies’ crimes in the region.
Rebel of Yemen, the Houthi movement also confirmed the seizure of its news channel domain named Al Masirah TV. The US was accused by Al Masirah of carrying out the act of piracy without any prior notice or justification. It also said that it holds the right to sue the government for illegal confiscation.
Mahmoud Vaezi, President’s office director of Iran, said that they are using all legal ways and international means to condemn the action. They will expose the public about the US mistaken policies. The act is not constructive as the nuclear deal issue talks are underway.