Press Freedom Advocates Condemn ‘Reckless’ US Shutdown of Iranian News Sites

“These are not actions of good faith negotiators.”

By Brett Wilkins, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 6-22-2021

Attempts in the United States to access some websites owned by or linked to the Iranian government were met with this message on June 22, 2021. (Photo: screenshot)

Press freedom advocates fumed Tuesday as U.S. authorities without immediate explanation reportedly blocked stateside access to numerous news websites owned by or linked to the Iranian government.

An unnamed U.S. official speaking on condition of anonymity told the Associated Press that around three dozen websites were seized due to their alleged dissemination of “disinformation.”

Iran’s semi-official Fars News Agency tweeted that the Biden administration blocked Press TV, Al-Masirah, Al-Alam, and Al-Maalomah, calling the act “a flagrant violation of the freedom of the press.”

While attempts to access Iranian government-owned outlet Press TV were met with a seizure warning from the FBI and Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security, state-owned or linked sites including Pars Today, Mehr News Agency, and The Tehran Times were still accessible.

The AP also reports that Yemen’s Houthi rebels—who are backed by Iran—said their Al-Masirah satellite news channel went offline on Tuesday without warning, and that the group would continue “confronting the American and Israeli acts of piracy against our nation, by any means.”

Anti-war and other progressive activists joined press freedom advocates in roundly condemning the U.S. move, with Medea Benjamin, co-founder of the women-led peace group CodePink, incredulously asking, “I thought [U.S. President Joe] Biden was trying to make peace with Iran?”

Journalist Rania Khalek tweeted that “if a country did this to U.S. media outlets it would be seen as an act of war.”

The U.S. censorship of Iranian news sites comes three days after the election of hardliner Ebrahim Raisi as the Islamic Republic’s next president, and just two days after world powers met in a bid to jump-start nuclear talks that have been stalled ever since former President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the U.S. from the landmark 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in 2018.

Responding to the U.S. seizure of Iranian news sites and the recent American sale of two million barrels of Iranian crude oil seized from a tanker off the coast of the United Arab Emirates, investigative journalist Alex Rubinstein tweeted that “these are not actions of good faith negotiators.”

This work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0).
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