The United States Justice Department has seized 33 Iranian government-controlled media websites, as well as three of the Iraqi group Kataeb Hezbollah. This was done to counter what was tagged Iranian propaganda and disinformation at a time of simmering tensions between the two countries. Among the 33 websites which were said to have been hosted on US-owned domains included Al-Masirah TV channel of Yemen’s Huthis, Press TV and Al-Alam, owned by the official Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), and carry content that often reflects the views of more hard-line factions in Iran’s leadership.
The United States imposed sanctions in late 2020 on IRTVU for what it has called the Iranian government’s interference with the U.S. election through disinformation aimed at U.S. voters. Tuesday’s seizures were aimed at those Web domains owned by a U.S. company, which means that the outlets’ webpages operating on non-American domains are still functioning.
Although, some of the websites remain accessible from some location. Al-Alam, which was also partly accessible, ran a brief item saying its website had been blocked, a move the channel called contrary to “freedom of opinion.” Press TV, on the other hand, having falling victim to censorship on multiple fronts, including Twitter and Instagram besides Google and its services has also remained accessible from some region.
The move by the Justice Department came during delicate negotiations between Iran and the United States to revive a 2015 nuclear deal, and a day after Iran’s new president-elect, Ebrahim Raisi, took a hard line toward the United States, ruling out the possibility of meeting with President Biden and declaring he would not negotiate over his country’s ballistic missile program.