Iran decries double standard on freedom of expression after U.S. seizes websites

(Xinhua) 08:26, June 28, 2021

-- A host of websites like Iran's English-language news network Press TV, Arabic-language Al-Alam and Yemen's al-Masirah TV channel said their domains had been "seized by the United States Government."

-- The U.S. Department of Justice said those dozens of websites of Iranian and other regional news outlets were operated "in violation of U.S. sanctions."

-- Tehran said the move is "double standard" and a "bullying measure."

TEHRAN, June 27 (Xinhua) -- Washington's recent takedown of dozens of websites of Iranian and other regional news outlets, which the U.S. Department of Justice said were operated "in violation of U.S. sanctions," has been termed by Tehran as being "double standard" and a "bullying measure."

Notices appeared on Tuesday on a host of websites like Iran's English-language news network Press TV, Arabic-language Al-Alam and Yemen's al-Masirah TV channel, saying their domains had been "seized by the United States Government."

Screenshot taken on June 26, 2021 shows that the United States seized the website of Iran's English-language news network Press TV. (Xinhua)

Ahmad Ali-Akbari, executive vice president for training and international cooperation at Press TV, told Xinhua on Saturday that the U.S. move "is an attempt to conceal Washington's mis-conducted and failed policies across the world, especially in West Asia."

Meanwhile, analysts warned that the development could complicate the ongoing diplomatic efforts to revive the Iran nuclear deal.


In reaction, Saeed Khatibzadeh, spokesman of the Iranian Foreign Ministry, on Wednesday slammed the U.S. move as Washington's disgraceful "policy of double standards" regarding freedom of expression, describing it as "a systematic attempt by the United States to undermine freedom of expression on a global level."

Iran's Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh addresses a press conference in Tehran, Iran, on March 8, 2021. (Photo by Ahmad Halabisaz/Xinhua)

Mahmoud Vaezi, the Iranian president's chief of staff, told local media on Wednesday that the U.S. government always has "a double standard, that is, they observe the issue that pertains to themselves and their friends, but what pertains to other countries and Islamic countries, they have a double discriminatory approach."

Also, Lebanon's Hezbollah Chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said in a televised speech on Friday that the U.S. move of seizing websites has exposed "Washington's false claims about freedom."

"It is incredible to see that while the U.S. government is accusing other countries of supposedly violating press freedoms, it's actually seizing the property of foreign media outlets," Ben Norton, an American journalist and commentator, told Press TV on Wednesday.

"There is a clear double standard," he said, adding that those media controlled or funded by Western nations are taken as being independent while Eastern media outlets run by countries targeted by Washington are treated as propaganda.

Photo taken on May 16, 2021 shows the Control Room of Iran's English-language news network Press TV. (Press TV/Handout via Xinhua)

In an interview with Xinhua, Ali-Akbari said, "It is a common practice by Washington to attach a label of disinformation on the media it does not favor to be heard by Americans."


"The Islamic Republic of Iran rejects the unlawful and bullying measure, and will pursue the issue through legal channels," Khatibzadeh said in a statement.

In a statement on Wednesday, the Iranian Islamic Radio and Television Union said, "The United States, under the pretext of freedom of expression and human rights, justifies its intervention in the world and puts pressure and sanctions on countries and different institutions."

"It tries to legitimize its crimes by shutting the mouths and suppressing the voices of freedom, and by relying on self-written laws and violations of democracy," it added.

Mahsa Alimardani, a researcher on human rights, told Al-Jazeera that the U.S. move was "shortsighted" as it lent support to the argument that the United States is an imperial and bullying power.

Press TV, formerly registered as a .com domain, later switched to an Iranian domain of .ir and was running again. Analysts warned that such a forced change illustrates how the United States leverages its leading, if not dominant, role in the Internet to serve its political calculation.

Photo taken on May 16, 2021 shows the entrance to the newsroom of Iran's English-language news network Press TV. (Press TV/Handout via Xinhua)

Wang Jin, a Middle East expert at Northwest University of China, called this move as a "very unilateralist behavior" in an interview with Xinhua on Saturday, warning that it suggests the United States could shut down not only Iranian websites, but also other countries' websites "based on their own decisions and policies rather than the consideration of the international interests and concerns."


The U.S. move came amid heightened tensions between the two countries when related parties have been trying to resuscitate the Iran nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Washington and Tehran have had indirect negotiations in Vienna since April aimed at restoring the JCPOA. But the two sides remain divided over the issue after six rounds of talks.

Press TV on Wednesday quoted Jason Unruhe, a political commentator, as saying that such a step by Washington "at a time when negotiations over the revival of Iran's nuclear deal are underway in Vienna is a deliberate provocative attack."

The United States and Iran still have serious differences over the restoration of the nuclear accord, a senior State Department official said on Thursday, while Iran's President-elect Ebrahim Raisi said on Monday that the United States must lift "all unjust sanctions" against Iran.

Iran's President-elect Ebrahim Raisi attends his first press conference after winning the election in Tehran June 21, 2021. (Photo by Ahmad Halabisaz/Xinhua)

The seizures, Bloomberg warned on Wednesday, "add another element of friction" as negotiators try to bring Washington back into the nuclear agreement that former U.S. President Donald Trump quit in 2018 as part of a maximum-pressure campaign against Tehran.

"The current U.S. administration has exactly followed the path of the previous administration, which will only lead to a double defeat for Washington," Khatibzadeh said in his statement in response to the closure of websites.

Noting that "new pressure will rise for possible rapprochement between Iran and the United States in the future," Wang suggested that if Washington wants to have nuclear deal dialogue with Iran, it "might take more friendly and more positive steps rather than this very negative step towards Tehran." 

(Web editor: Shi Xi, Du Mingming)


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