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US seizes 33 websites used by Iranian radio and television union

Published: Updated:

The United States seized 33 websites used by the Iranian Islamic Radio and Television Union and three websites operated by the Iran-backed Kataib Hezbollah militia, the US Justice Department said.

US law enforcement seized control of the websites of two Iranian state-controlled news groups, Press TV and Al-Alam, and of the Al-Masirah TV channel of Yemen’s Houthis, statements posted on the websites showed Tuesday.

Each site had displayed a single page with a statement that it “has been seized by the United States Government” and making reference to US sanctions laws, accompanied by the seal of the FBI and the US Department of Commerce.

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Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, the parent of Al-Alam, reported that other sites, including a Palestinian-directed broadcast and an Arabic-language religious and cultural channel were also seized.

IRIB 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.”

An image grab taken from Iran's Al-Alam TV on January 28, 2013, shows the Iranian flag at an unknown location flying in front of a capsule containing a live monkey which the Tehran-based Arab-language channel said they sent up into space and later retrieved intact. (AFP)
An image grab taken from Iran's Al-Alam TV on January 28, 2013, shows the Iranian flag at an unknown location flying in front of a capsule containing a live monkey which the Tehran-based Arab-language channel said they sent up into space and later retrieved intact. (AFP)

Domains tied to Iran-backed groups in Iraq and to Hezbollah, the Lebanese military-political faction, were also frozen with the US Justice Department message.

Asked during a US State Department briefing about the Press TV seizure, spokesman Ned Price declined to comment, but referred reporters to the Justice Department which he said was expected to provide information soon.

LuaLua TV, a channel run by Bahrain opposition groups with offices in London and Beirut, was also closed, according to an AFP correspondent in the region.

In Yemen the Houthi said on the website of their political wing that they condemned “this American piracy and copyright confiscation.”

“The government of the United States of America is banning the Al-Masirah website without any justification or even prior notice,” they said.

A-Masirah quickly established a new website, using its name but swapping the .net domain for .com.

Meanwhil LuaLua and Al-Masirah continued to broadcast new programs, AFP journalists said.

The United States maintains strict sanctions on Iran due to its nuclear weapons programs and alleged support for terror.

Hundreds of Iranian organizations and individuals have been placed on the US sanctions blacklist.

The sanctions forbid Americans and businesses and organizations with US operations from doing any business with Iran.