Notices have appeared on two Iranian news sites as well as two websites affiliated with Yemen’s Houthi movement claiming they were seized by the US government as part of law enforcement action.
Iran’s Press TV and Al-Alam, as well as two of Yemen’s al-Masirah websites, were taken offline on Tuesday with banners reading: “This website has been seized… by the United States Government in accordance with a seizure warrant.”
The websites were allegedly taken down in a joint operation by the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and the Bureau of Industry and Security. However, neither agency has confirmed the validity of the claim.
Asked about the websites’ seizures during a news conference on Tuesday, State Department spokesperson Ned Price did not confirm or deny US responsibility for the takedowns, referring journalists instead to the Department of Justice, which oversees the FBI.
The DOJ did not respond however respond to the request for comment.
Marzieh Hashemi, a prominent anchor for Press TV, told The Associated Press that the channel was aware of the seizure but had no further information.
“We are just trying to figure out what this means,” she said.
However In a post to Twitter, the news agency 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”. PressTV did not confirm US involvement in the seizure, saying only that the actor “claims” to be with the US government.
In what seems to be a coordinated action, a similar message appears on the websites of Iranian and regional television networks that claims the domains of the websites have been “seized by the United States Government.”
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 state media agency.
IRIB has been sanctioned by the US since 2013 – and remained so even after the Obama-era nuclear deal – under a US law that gives the US Treasury Department the authority to designate those in Iran who restrict or deny the free flow of information to or from the Iranian people but Press TV has remained operational despite all the sanctions.
The Houthi movement’s alternative domain for its al-Masirah news website, which remained operational, released a statement accusing the US of 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.”
Last year the US Treasury Department blocked and seized the official domain name of Iranian state-run newspaper “Iran”.
The website, once registered under the domain “iran-newspaper.com”, is still offline but can now be found instead under “irannewspaper.ir”.
In 2012, Nicole Navas, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman, told Wired that the US government has the authority to seize any website ending in .com, .net or .org because the companies that have the contracts to administer the sites are based on US soil.