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Google deletes Press TV UK's YouTube account

Staff at Iranian-funded channel say their page was closed without warning or explanation, and comes as companies are under pressure to comply with US sanctions
Google did not respond to multiple requests for comment on why it shut down Press TV UK's account (AFP)

Google has deleted the YouTube account for Iran's Press TV UK channel as regional tensions continue to heighten between Tehran and Washington following the assassination of Qassem Soleimani. 

The page was closed on Monday evening without any warning or explanation from Google, according to Press TV UK staff who spoke to Middle East Eye. 

"Google has previously shut down our main YouTube page (Press TV) but instead of closing us down completely, Google prevented us from uploading new content or letting people subscribe to the channel," Ahmed Kaballo, a Press TV journalist, told MEE.

"But this is completely different. Our news reports and documentaries have been completely deleted from the Press TV UK channel's account. It's like they're trying to wipe us out of existence." 

Google did not respond to multiple requests for comment ahead of publication.

Kaballo said Press TV UK uploaded its reports and documentaries to its YouTube channel in order to provide an "alternative" perspective on stories in the UK and Europe. 

In December, he said, the outlet received an email from Google saying one of its videos had violated community standards. Press TV reviewed the video internally. 

"But this time they gave us no warning or opportunity to respond to accusations over our content," he said.

Press TV UK's news reports and documentaries have been permanently deleted because of the account closure (Screengrab)
Press TV UK's news reports and documentaries have been permanently deleted because of the account closure (Screengrab)

Press TV is Iran's first international English-language TV channel. It is funded by the Iranian government. The outlet launched its UK channel in 2007.

In 2011, Ofcom ruled that Press TV breached UK broadcasting rules and prevented the channel from airing in the UK. The watchdog said an interview aired with a Newsweek journalist arrested covering the 2009 presidential elections had been obtained under duress.

Impact of sanctions

Google's decision to delete Press TV UK's YouTube account comes as technology companies continue to face pressure over monitoring their content and complying with US sanctions.

Last week, a Facebook spokesperson said that it was actively removing posts on Instagram that expressed support for US-designated terrorist organisations and their leaders. 

“We operate under US sanctions laws, including those related to the US government’s designation of the IRGC and its leadership," the spokesperson told Coda Story.  

However, Abas Aslani, an Iranian affairs analyst based in Tehran, told MEE that US sanctions were impacting Iranians arbitrarily on multiple levels. 

"The death of Qassem Soleimani was reported on around the world by multiple outlets, but when Iranian news outlets reported on the assassination, they were blocked or had their access restricted by Instagram because of US sanctions," said Aslani. 

"Similarly on a personal level, a news outlet I used to manage was forced to shut down because US sanctions on foreign banking prevented me from paying the subscription fee for the website."