© Reuters. A screenshot from alalamtv.net shows a notice that the website has been seized by the United States government as part of law enforcement operations, as seen on June 22, 2021. REUTERS
DUBAI (Reuters) – The U.S. Department of Justice said Tuesday it had seized 36 websites linked to Iran, many of which are linked to either disinformation activities or violent organizations, and taken them offline for violating U.S. sanctions.
Several of the sites were back online with new domain addresses in a matter of hours.
“Today, under a court order, 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” the ministry said in a statement.
KH, also spelled Kataib Hezbollah, is one of the most important Iraqi militias allied with Iran and has been designated a foreign terrorist organization by the United States.
Sites seized included Press TV, the Iranian government’s main English-language satellite television broadcaster, and Al Alam, its Arabic-language equivalent. Both came back online via the Iranian domain addresses Alalam.ir and Presstv.ir.
The Justice Department said that the 33 domains used by IRTVU are owned by a US company and that IRTVU did not obtain a license from the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control prior to using the domain names.
KH has not received a license either.
Notices appeared on Tuesday on a number of Iran-related websites stating that they had been seized by the US government as part of law enforcement operations.
Iranian news outlets said the US government had seized several Iranian media websites and websites run by Iran-related groups such as the Yemeni Houthi movement.
The announcements came days after a prominent hardliner and harsh critic of the West, Ebrahim Raisi, was elected the new president of Iran and after envoys for Iran and six world powers, including Washington, postponed high-level talks to revive their torn 2015 nuclear deal had and returned to the capitals for consultations.
The website of the Arabic-language Masirah TV, operated by the Houthis, states:
“The domain almasirah.net was seized by the US government under a seizure warrant … as part of a law enforcement action by the Bureau of Industry and Security, Office of Export Enforcement, and Federal Bureau of Investigation.”
The website quickly opened to a new working website at www.almasirah.com.
Iran’s Arabic-language Alalam TV said on its Telegram channel, “The US authorities have shut down Al-Alam TV’s website.”
Notices also appeared on the website of Lualua TV, an Arabic-language independent Bahraini broadcaster broadcasting from the UK.
US prosecutors in October seized a network of web domains allegedly used in an Iranian Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) campaign to spread political disinformation around the world.
The Justice Department said at the time it had taken control of 92 domains used by the IRGC to pose as independent media to audiences in the United States, Europe, the Middle East and Southeast Asia.
The semi-official Iranian news agency YJC said Tuesday that the US move “shows that calls for freedom of expression are lies”.
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