Visitors to Iran’s state-run PressTV news website on Tuesday were greeted with a message stating the U.S. government had seized the domain as part of “a law enforcement action by the Bureau of Industry and Security, Office of Export Enforcement, and Federal Bureau of Investigation.”
— Jason Brodsky (@JasonMBrodsky) June 22, 2021
The message said the government executed a seizure warrant in accordance with several civil forfeiture laws, essentially implying that PressTV was employed in criminal activity deemed a threat to U.S. national security. The message did not say exactly what criminal activity allegedly occurred.
PressTV’s Twitter account appeared to be functioning normally on Tuesday afternoon, including some recent posts, but did not have any comment on the seizure of the website.
U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price declined to comment on the seizure on Tuesday afternoon, but said the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) “might have something to provide on that shortly.”
Russia’s RT.com noted on Tuesday that the American government had also seized the web domain of Iran’s Al-Alam news network and that of Al-Masirah, a Yemeni TV station controlled by the Iran-backed Houthi insurgency.
Based on the U.S. codes cited in the seizure messages, RT.com speculated it had something to do with “trafficking in nuclear, chemical, biological, or radiological weapons” – in other words, the Iranian nuclear weapons program and possibly some effort to supply Iranian weapons to the Houthis – or, less alarmingly, the manufacture and distribution of a “controlled substance.”
RT.com further speculated the seizures might have been influenced or triggered by the election of theocratic hardliner Ebrahim Raisi as the new president of Iran in a highly dubious vote held over the weekend. Raisi, under human rights sanctions and credibly accused of crimes against humanity, promptly announced that he would not negotiate with the U.S. government or meet with President Joe Biden unless the U.S. unilaterally removes all sanctions.
Among the other provisions in the statutes the announcement of PressTV’s seizure cited, were notes permitting asset seizure in cases of promoting terrorism. PressTV, as a state media outlet, regularly praised the leadership of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), a U.S.-designated terrorist organization and formal wing of the Iranian armed forces.
Iranian state propaganda outlets have expressed, through various reports, concerns of being shut down for at least a year as a result of Trump-era sanctions on the Iranian state over its illegal nuclear development and human rights violations.
Iranian state media said on Tuesday that other sites were seized, including “a Palestinian-directed broadcast and an Arabic-language religious and cultural channel,” as translated by the Times of Israel.
Al-Alam’s parent company, Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), complained that the U.S. government was working with Israel and Saudi Arabia to repress Iran’s freedom of expression and “block pro-resistance media outlets exposing the crimes of U.S. allies in the region.”
PressTV anchor Marzieh Hashemi told the Associated Press her channel was aware that its website has been seized, but did not know why.
“We are just trying to figure out what this means,” Hashemi said.