..The seizures included websites linked to Iran, Iraq, Yemen and Palestine

American authorities took down a range of Iran-linked news websites on Tuesday, the US Justice Department confirmed, a move that appeared to be a far-reaching crackdown on Iranian media amid heightened tension between the two countries.

The Justice Department said 33 of the seized websites were used by the Iranian Islamic Radio and Television Union, which was singled out by the US government last October for what officials described as efforts to spread disinformation and sow discord among American voters ahead of the 2020 presidential election.

The US says three other seized websites were operated by the Iran-linked Iraqi militia group Kataib Hezbollah, which more than a decade ago was designated a foreign terrorist organisation.

The website domains are owned by US companies, but despite the sanctions, neither the IRTVU nor Kataib Hezbollah obtained the required licenses from the US government before using the domain names, according to the Justice Department.

The announcement came hours after the Iranian state-run news agency IRNA revealed the US government seizures without providing further information.

On Tuesday, the addresses of a handful of sites – including Iran state television’s Press TV, Yemen’s Houthi rebel-run Al Masirah satellite news channel, and Iranian state TV’s Arabic-language channel Al Alam – displayed a federal notice.

PressTV is the English-language arm of the Iranian state-run television agency. Screenshot of PressTV website
PressTV is the English-language arm of the Iranian state-run television agency. Screenshot of PressTV website
The notice on the websites said they had been seized “as part of law enforcement action” by the US Bureau of Industry and Security Office of Export Enforcement and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Yemen’s Houthi rebel group announced that its Al Masirah satellite news channel had gone offline without prior notice but that its mission of “confronting the American and Israeli acts of piracy against our nation by any means” would continue.

The US government also took over the domain name of the news website Palestine Today, which reports the viewpoints of Gaza-based Islamic militant groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad.


Press TV is the state-run Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting’s English-language service.

There are no private television or radio stations in Iran and satellite dishes, while widespread, also are illegal, giving the official broadcasting service a monopoly over the domestic airwaves.

Marzieh Hashemi, a prominent Press TV anchorwoman who, in 2019, was a material witness in an unspecified criminal case and has appeared before a grand jury in Washington, told The Associated Press that the channel was struggling to “figure out the reasons” for the seizure.

US authorities set a precedent for the seizure under the administration of former president Donald Trump.

Last October, the Justice Department announced the takedown of nearly 100 websites linked to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. The US said the sites, operating under the guise of genuine news outlets, were waging a “global disinformation campaign” to influence US policy and push Iranian propaganda around the world.

There have also been attempts to block outlets such as Press TV from social media platforms. Google has blocked the Iranian broadcaster from YouTube.

The decision to seize the domain comes amid ongoing nuclear talks between the US and Iran in Vienna. Both sides have said that talks were progressing although no deal has been reached.

This week, Iran elected a new hard-line president, Ebrahim Raisi, who has said that although he would continue talks between the US, his country would be taking a tougher stance.

By Odoh Dominic Chukwuemeka


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