Tehran: In an apparent bid to blackout Iranian perspective, American authorities seized a range of web domains of media outlets of Iran and its allies in the region on Tuesday. The move appeared to be a far-reaching crackdown on Iranian media amid heightened tensions between the two countries.
The US Department of Justice has seized Iranian domains before, claiming they were part of a “disinformation campaign,” and US-based social media corporations like Twitter and Google have persecuted Iranian news outlets for years, but the wholesale seizure of a major Iranian media outlet’s website is new.
American authorities seized the web domains of Iran’s international media outlets Press TV and Al-Alam, along with dozens of other channels deemed to be pro-Iran including Yemen’s Al Masirah and Gaza based Palestine Today.
The US Justice Department said in a statement on Tuesday night that the seizures were in “response to the Iranian regime targeting the United States’ electoral process with brazen attempts to sow discord among the voting populace by spreading disinformation online and executing malign influence operations aimed at misleading U.S. voters.”
A statement by the Islamic Republic of Iran News Network said the move appeared to be part of a larger-scale crackdown by the U.S. on news websites linked to what Iran calls the “Axis of Resistance,” which includes Syria, Yemen, Lebanon, Iraq and Palestine.
It accused the United States of repressing freedom of expression and joining forces with Israel and Saudi Arabia “to block pro-resistance media outlets exposing the crimes of US allies in the region”.
Al-Masirah also issued a statement saying: “This American ban on the Al Masirah Net website and other friendly website reveals, once again, the falsehood of the slogans of freedom of expression and all the other headlines promoted by the United States of America, including its inability to confront the truth.”
Visitors to media sites such as Press TV and Al-Alam as the Al-Masirah TV channel were met with single-page statements on Wednesday, declaring the website “has been seized by the United States Government” accompanied by the seals of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the US Commerce Department.
The U.S. government also took over the domain name of the news website Palestine Today, which reflects the view points of Gaza-based groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad, redirecting the site to the same takedown notice. Independent Lualua television network which represents pro-democracy movement in Bahrain and operates from London too has been taken down.
It’s not the first time that the U.S. has targetted media outlets from Iran and its allies.
In October 2013, nineteen Iran allied channels, including Press TV, were taken off air in North America by satellite providers under US pressure.
Last October, the Department of Justice announced the takedown of nearly a hundred websites it claimed were linked to Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard. The U.S. said the sites, operating under the guise of genuine news outlets, were waging a “global disinformation campaign” to influence U.S. policy and push Iranian narrative around the world.
Responsibility for providing name service for the domain name presstv.com was apparently switched to Amazon name servers on Tuesday at mid-afternoon European time, said internet infrastructure expert Ron Guilmette. That suggests the domain was indeed wrested from its previous owner.
Both Press TV and Al-Alam came back online using Iranian domain addresses Presstv.ir and Alalam.ir.
Press TV, launched in June 2007, is Iran’s English-language international TV channel while Al Alam is beamed to Arab world from Tehran.
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