This week, the United States launched one of the most outrageous attacks on the press and foreign media in recent times.
On June 23, the US government seized the websites of several broadcasters and news outlets, including Iran’s Al Alam, Iraq’s Alforat, and Yemen’s Al Masirah, just to name a few.
Among them was also Iran’s Press TV, a popular English-speaking broadcaster where I myself have hosted a television program titled The Communiqué since late 2020. Anyone attempting to access www.presstv.com is met with a sign that reads “This website has been seized,” bearing the daunting seal of the US Department of Justice and Department of Commerce.
The American government didn’t just block these outlets inside the US; it blocked them worldwide, for everyone, rendering them inaccessible after seizing their .com domains. An act reminiscent of how the US recently seized (a nice way of saying ‘stole’) Iran’s oil and sold it off, like pirates.
Using emergency laws to silence the media
A statement released the following day by the DOJ confirmed the seizure of not just Press TV, but a total of 33 outlets. What do all these channels have in common? They are Muslim, Arabic, or Persian and tow an anti-imperialist line, part of the Axis of Resistance.
Under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), US President Joe Biden declared a national emergency, designating an “unusual and extraordinary threat” to the “national security, foreign policy, or economy of the United States.” Apparently, my TV show and those of my colleagues are so upsetting that the US feels compelled to use its emergency laws to silence us for exposing their imperialism.
The DOJ statement claims – absurdly and without proof – that these outlets are “disguised as news” and run by Iran’s Quds Force, an elite military unit under the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). It was formerly headed by General Qassem Soleimani, assassinated on Trump’s order in January 2020.
Once again, we see little to no difference between Trump and Biden, as Biden accuses Iran of “disinformation campaigns,” wielding sanctions imposed by Trump on the IRGC and the Islamic Radios and Televisions Union (IRTVU) in October 2020, to seize the sites of several Iranian broadcasters.
Trump was heavily criticized for his “unprecedented” use (and abuse) of emergency powers and executive orders, even declaring a national emergency to secure funding for his border wall. He was dubbed an “existential threat” to the US by Biden, who also lambasted him for his “all-out assault” on the media.
So where is the accountability for Biden now that he abuses emergency powers to silence the press? I wonder how Biden voters try and rationalize this behavior – accusing foreign journalists of being spies or working with Iran’s special forces and then seizing their websites in the name of ‘counterterrorism’. Apparently, they don’t mind authoritarianism and attacks on the press when Biden does it.
By shutting down Press TV, the US has decided for 1.4 billion English-speaking people on the planet that they can no longer watch and listen to news that goes against the US narrative.
This action goes far beyond just authoritarianism. It would be bad enough were the US blocking Press TV within its own borders – instead it’s deciding what news the rest of the world can consume and what foreign journalists can say. Several Arabic-language broadcasters like Al Alam and Alforat were also abruptly taken offline, leaving behind a vacuum.
I started my career in journalism in late 2019/early 2020 on my YouTube channel and Twitter. I was very blessed to grow successful quickly, and was offered my own television program on Press TV in the fall of 2020. I don’t work in America. Press TV is not based in America. What gives the United States the right to seize my work, the work of my colleagues, and take it offline? In what universe is this behavior fair or acceptable? Almost an entire year of my weekly television broadcasts and episodes that I produced were lost. Were it not for the mirror uploaded on www.presstv.ir they would have been gone forever from the internet.
Foreign outlets and adversarial publishers have often been harassed in the West, such as CGTN (China) and Telesur (Venezuela). On numerous occasions, Press TV had its Facebook page with over 3 million followers arbitrarily removed then reinstated. Last year, its entire YouTube channel was deleted and banned from using Google services. In 2012, it was taken off the air in the UK by OFCOM, Britain’s telecoms regulator. So much for free speech and Western values.
WikiLeaks was subjected to similar treatment in the past. The US made efforts to shut the publisher down for releasing evidence of American war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. WikiLeaks had its PayPal, credit cards, and bank accounts frozen to cut off funding and finances. Its website was repeatedly subject to distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, resulting in slow traffic and crashes.
Attacking Axis of Resistance
This latest action by the Biden administration is very clearly an attack on the foreign press. The US specifically sought out anti-imperialist news outlets and shut them down.
All these outlets are based in countries that form part of the Axis of Resistance and expose the true nature of US foreign policy. They tell the truth about Western imperialism; how America’s sanctions are akin to siege warfare, producing mass starvation, death, and suffering. They expose the crimes of the Israeli occupation, and don’t sugarcoat the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians as “clashes” or a “conflict.” They confront colonialism, imperialism, and don’t parrot the narratives of Western corporate media, nor do they help to sell wars for weapons manufacturers.
The allegations levelled against them by the US, that they spread ‘disinformation’, are no different from the ones that fueled the Russiagate scandal during the last four years – they’re unproven and baseless.
By taking down these news sites, the US sends a clear message that it will harass and silence publishers whose work runs counter to their official narrative. Even if you live outside the US, Uncle Sam insists you listen only to news he approves. State media is fine as long as it’s American or British, but not Iranian.
This is America’s hypocrisy on full display
The US claims to uphold democratic values and traditions. So why is it attacking the press? To call this behavior hypocritical is an understatement. The West constantly points the finger at China and Russia, accusing them of silencing dissidents and journalists.
Almost every day we hear from Western journalists who think they’re very tough yelling Navalny’s name at Russian President Vladimir Putin – while they say nothing of Julian Assange, journalist and founder of WikiLeaks, whose extradition Biden is still trying to pursue, as he sits in a maximum-security prison in London.
Just imagine if Iran had permanently knocked out CNN, PBS, and MSNBC’s websites; imagine the international outrage and backlash that would ensue, with all the usual propaganda about how Iran is a dictatorship and has no respect for the press.
So where is the outrage when the US shuts down 33 foreign news sites? How is it that the United States can get away with such outrageous behavior, purposely seeking out and shutting down outlets abroad, and extra-territorializing its affront on journalists?
The silence from the media is deafening.
Many will not speak up, for fear of being associated with Arabic, Persian, and Muslim outlets – or what Israeli media calls “pro-Hamas” outlets. Indeed, it’s rather amusing how suddenly all the so-called “leftists” and “free speech advocates” are nowhere to be found. Biden, using emergency powers to designate foreign media as spies and military units, terminating them in the name of counterterrorism, doesn’t seem to bother them. Once again, when it’s crunch time, you see where some people really stand on imperialism, and for many, it’s by Uncle Sam’s side.
Indeed, the agents of the empire take adversarial journalism and political commentary seriously. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t bother going to such lengths to silence truth tellers. If the US president uses emergency powers, under which our work is labeled an “unusual and extraordinary threat,” then this not only proves that we’re right on the criminality of US imperialism – but that we’re also an effective thorn in the empire’s side.
If our journalism and exposure of the truth poses an “unusual and extraordinary threat” and the agents of empire label us as such, then this is a label we shall wear with pride.