U.S. authorities seize Iran-linked news websites

The U.S. department of Justice announced on Tuesday that it has blocked various major Iranian state-linked news platforms accused of spreading disinformation.

The move comes as a form of retaliation of previous claims made by Washington that the sites have been attempting to influence the American elections, with many pundits arguing that it will intensify tensions between both countries as they restart nuclear deal talks in Vienna.

“Today, pursuant to court orders, 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 U.S. sanctions,” the department said in a statement.

Among the platforms blocked are Press TV, the Iranian government’s main English-language satellite television channel, and Al Alam, its Arabic-language equivalent. Both came back online using Iranian domain addresses Alalam.ir and Presstv.ir.

The websites of Press TV and Iranian Arabic news service Al-Alam only showed a single page with the statement: “This website has been seized.”

The pages displayed logos of the FBI and the Department of Commerce and referenced U.S. sanctions laws.

Iranian news agencies said the U.S. government had seized several Iranian media websites and sites belonging to groups affiliated with Iran such as Yemen’s Houthi movement.

Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), the owner of Press TV and Al-Alam, accused the US of stifling freedom of expression.

The IRIB said the U.S. had teamed up with Israel and Saudi Arabia “to block pro-resistance media outlets exposing the crimes of US allies in the region.”

The notices appeared days after a prominent hardliner and fierce critic of the West, Ebrahim Raisi, was elected as Iran’s new president and after envoys for Iran and six world powers, including Washington, adjourned high stakes talks on reviving their tattered 2015 nuclear accord and returned to capitals for consultations.

The website of the Arabic-language Masirah TV, which is run by the Houthis, read: “The domain almasirah.net has been seized by the United States Government in accordance with 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.”

Several of the sites were back online within hours with new domain addresses.