Iran shuts down newspaper for publishing expert’s doubt on official COVID-19 tolls


The Iranian government has shut down a newspaper after it published an expert’s opinion that the country’s true death toll from COVID-19 could be 20 times greater than what is being reported, state news agency IRNA said.

Authorities closed down the Jahan-e Sanat newspaper after it quoted Iranian epidemiologist Mohammad Reza Mahboubfar, who accused the government of working to cover up actual statistics about total coronavirus infections and deaths.

The newspaper’s editor-in-chief Mohammadreza Saadi, told IRNA”The Jahan-e Sanat newspaper was shut down today for publishing an interview on Sunday.”

The newspaper published an interview with Dr. Mahboubfar, in which he said: “The figures announced by the officials on coronavirus cases and deaths account for only 5% of the country’s real tolls”.

Health Ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari rejected Dr. Mahboubfar’s remarks and said he was not a member of the National Coronavirus Combat Taskforce, according to IRNA.

It was not clear if she meant he had never been a member of the body, as claimed by the newspaper.

Dr. Mahboubfar told the newspaper that authorities had detected the coronavirus in January, while Iran announced its first infections and two deaths from the virus on Feb 19.

“There was no transparent flow of information…The government only provided engineered figures…over concerns about (its impact) on the election and the commemorations of the revolution anniversary,” Dr. Mahboubfar told the daily.

Reuters reported in April that authorities refrained from announcing the spread of the coronavirus in Iran out of concern that it would unsettle the public ahead of parliamentary elections on Feb and the celebrations for the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Iran is one of the worst-hit countries from COVID-19 in the Middle East, with 18,616 dead and 328,844 infected cases.

Some experts and lawmakers have doubted the accuracy of Iran’s official coronavirus tolls. A report by the Iranian parliament’s research centre in April suggested that the coronavirus tolls might be almost twice as many as those announced by the health ministry.

It said Iran’s official coronavirus figures were based only on the number of deaths in hospitals and those who had already tested positive for the coronavirus. (Source: The Straits Times)