TEHRAN -- Tehran on Wednesday warned Washington after the U.S. government seized websites of Iran’s Press TV and Al-Alam and other regional television networks linked to the resistance front.
Notices appeared on Press TV and Al-Alam, as well as Yemen’s Al-Masirah websites, all of which were taken offline on Tuesday with banners reading: “This website has been seized... by the United States Government in accordance with a seizure warrant.”
Iran’s national broadcaster IRIB hit out at the U.S. for repressing freedom of expression and joining forces with the occupying regime of Israel and Saudi Arabia “to block pro-resistance media outlets exposing the crimes of U.S. allies in the region.”
The takedowns come just days after the Iranian presidential election victory of Ebrahim Raisi.
On Monday, Raisi said there were “no obstacles” standing in the way of restoring ties with Iran’s regional rival Saudi Arabia, but ruled out the possibilities of meeting with President Joe Biden.
The websites were reportedly taken down in a joint operation by the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and the Bureau of Industry and Security. CNN said it had received confirmation that the U.S. was behind the seizures.
Asked about the websites during a news conference on Tuesday, State Department spokesperson Ned Price did not confirm or deny U.S. responsibility for the takedowns, referring journalists instead to the Department of Justice, which oversees the FBI.
In a post to Twitter, Press TV shared a screenshot of the message that appeared in place of its website on Tuesday, saying it “seems to be a coordinated action” as a similar message has also appeared on websites of other “Iranian and regional television networks”.
Launched in July 2007, Press TV is the international English-language news channel that runs under the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), Tehran’s official media agency.
IRIB has been sanctioned by the U.S. since 2013 - and remained so even after the Obama-era nuclear deal.
Yemen’s alternative domain for Al-Masirah news website, which remained operational, released a statement condemning the U.S. for seizing its site “without any justification or prior notice”.
“This seizure of the almasirah.net and other allied websites reveals once again the deceit of the free speech slogans that America promotes,” the agency said. “We condemn this American piracy.”
Bahrain’s LuaLua TV, a channel run by opposition groups with offices in London and Beirut, was also closed.
Other web domains, including Palestine Al-Youm, a Palestinian-directed broadcaster, and an Arabic-language religious and cultural channel were also seized.
Last year the U.S. Treasury Department
blocked and seized the official domain name of Iranian newspaper “Iran”.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh described the move as a “systematic attempt by the United States to undermine freedom of expression on a global level and to silence independent voices in media.”
He blasted as “disgraceful” Washington’s policy of double standards and regretted that the “current U.S. administration has exactly followed the path of the previous administration, which will only lead to a double defeat for Washington.”
Khatibzadeh said that Iran will pursue the “illegal and bullying” measure through legal channels.
In a statement, IRIB the U.S. measure was carried out under “unrealistic, irrational and false excuses,” indicating “the arrogant nature of Washington and its blatant violation of and deliberate disregard for international rules and the international system.”
It said over the past two years, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube have also blocked the accounts of resistance networks “under false pretexts and in violation of international protocols and laws in the field of freedom of expression.”
IRIB said it has provided new addresses for its targeted websites on the .ir domain to prevent the audience from losing access to domains that Washington has forcibly seized and to prevent the United States from obstructing free access to information.
It also said it will follow the matter through legal channels. Peyman Jebelli, chief of the IRIB’s World Service said the U.S. measure is not surprising following the resistance front’s recent victory against the Zionist regime.
“After the victory of the Palestinian resistance over the Zionist regime in ‘Operation al-Quds Sword’, we expected to be subjected to restrictions,” he told Al-Alam.
“What is important to the United States is to silence the voice of the resistance. All media promoting resistance in any language were able to expose the conspiracies of the American-Zionist axis in the region and the world,” he said.
The official said such measures will be of no avail as “the impact of our media content on the world and Islamic public opinion is much greater than that of the enemy media.”
“The voice of truth can never be silenced,” he said.