Some 36 news news websites linked to the Islamic Republic of Iran, including a website belonging to state-run English channel PressTV, have been pulled from the internet by the FBI and US Department of Justice.
Visitors to pro-Islamic Republic news and media websites on Tuesday were met with a notice of seizure “as part of a law enforcement action” bearing the logos of the FBI and the DoJ.
The affected sites included PressTV, the English-language arm of Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, the IRIB’s Arabic-language challen Al-Alam and the Yemeni Houthi-run Al-Masirah satellite news channel.
In a statement, the DoJ said it had taken down 33 websites for being part of the Iranian Islamic Radio and Television Union (IRTVU), which it has sanctioned for being controlled by the Revolutionary Guards' expeditionary Quds Force, and three it said were operated by Kataib Hezbollah, an Iraqi Shia paramilitary group supported by Iran.
It added "Components of the government of Iran, to include IRTVU and others like it, disguised as news organizations or media outlets, targeted the United States with disinformation campaigns and malign influence operations."
The move appeared to be a far-reaching crackdown on Iranian media amid heightened tensions between the two countries. All the domains seized belonged to US-based hosting companies.
PressTV lost its license in the United Kingdom in 2012 after broadcasting a forced confession, which was in breach of regulator Ofcom’s rules. It still has offices and journalists in the UK and continues to run its Iran-based website.
The channel has posted a news story on its second, .ir domain saying the seizure seemed to be "a coordinated action" and claiming it had repeatedly "fallen vicftim to censorship" in recent months, with pages removed from Facebook and Twitter for violating community guidelines.
Houthi rebel militias have also confirmed the takedown of Al-Masirah, stating the channel would continued in its mission of “confronting the American and Israeli acts of piracy against our nation, by any means.”