Iraq bans Reuters for 90 days over whistleblower report claiming coronavirus cover-up

Iraq bans Reuters for 90 days over whistleblower report claiming coronavirus cover-up
The Iraqi government has demanded an apology and a £17,000 fine from Reuters after it published a report in which doctors claimed coronavirus cases were thousands higher than official figures.
2 min read
03 April, 2020
Reuters said there could be thousands more Covid-19 cases than official government figures claim [Getty]
The Iraqi government has banned news agency Reuters from operating in the country for 90 days, following its publication of a report in which anonymous whistleblowers from the government and hospitals said the true number of coronavirus cases was far higher than official figures.

Iraq's Communications and Media Commission released a statement which circulated on Twitter, expressing its "shock and condemnation" at the report's claims.

Thursday's report cited doctors, as well as high-ranking medical and political officials, who said that the real number of confirmed coronavirus cases could be between 3,000 and 9,000, far higher than the 772 reported by the authorities.

It also voiced the officials' claims that the number of Covid-19 deaths was also far higher than the official figure of 54.

The government statement demanded an official apology from Reuters as well as a fine of 25,000,000 Iraqi dinars (£17,180) for "putting social security at risk".

The whistleblowers also said that national security officials had attended health ministry meetings and had instructed authorities not to reveal high figures as it could create public disorder and a rush for medical supplies.

Testing facilities in Iraq are severely limited, and Iraq authorities have acknowledged that the number of cases may be higher than the confirmed number of cases.

Medical professionals blame the spread of the virus on a number reasons including people refusing to be tested, flouting the nationwide curfew and pilgrims who travelled to a Shia Muslim shrine in Baghdad last month.

The Iraq Report: Political paralysis slows fight against coronavirus amid economic woes

The government's retaliation echoes the expulsion of the Guardian's Cairo correspondent, after she cited a scientific study that suggested Egypt's true number of coronavirus cases could be far higher than official reports.

Egypt's authorities revoked journalist Ruth Michaelson's press accreditation and demanded an apology from the Guardian

It later invited Michaelson to a visa meeting, but she was advised not to attend over the risk of her arrest, and left the country on one of the last planes before the Covid-19 shutdown.

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