Iraqi president Barham Salih is working with his legal team to “revoke” the suspension of Reuters’ operating license by the country’s Communications and Media Commission (CMC) and reinstate the news agency in Iraq.
The CMC has revoked Reuters’ licence for three months and fined the news agency 25m dinars (US$21,000) for what it said was the agency’s violation of the rules of media broadcasting.
Iraqi president Barham Salih said it was a “regrettable decision” taken by a commission that is independent of the government.
“From my vantage point you would not get me in a situation where I would defend that. I’m working with our legal team in order to revoke that and manage the situation,” Salih told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Tuesday.
He said the reporting of COVID-19 cases and deaths had “to be based on transparency and openness.” He added: “From my vantage point, you will not get me in a situation where I would defend [suspending Reuters].”
Salih said officials were distressed with Reuters as the report “implied a deliberate falsification of records by the government.” The president cited reports from the World Health Organization and the United Nations “confirming that there has been absolutely no evidence of deliberate falsification of records.”
He also said the discrepancy in numbers “is the norm in Iraq as well as other countries because we have not been in a case of active surveillance early on.”
Reuters has said it regretted the decision to suspend the news agency, and that it stood by the story, which it described as “based on multiple, well-placed medical and political sources.”
“We are seeking to resolve the matter and are working to ensure we continue to deliver trusted news about Iraq,” the agency was quoted as saying in a Reuters report.
A statement from the Communications and Media Commission on April 02 said Reuters’ “approach to the Iraqi situation places the security of society at risk.”
The story published by its Baghdad bureau said that “Iraq has thousands of confirmed COVID-19 cases, many times more than the 772 it has publicly reported, according to three doctors closely involved in the testing process, a health ministry official and a senior political official.”
CNN could not independently confirm the numbers in the Reuters article.
However, the latest official tally, according to Johns Hopkins University, which is keeping a running tally of global cases, is that Iraq has 1,400 cases of COVID-19 and 78 deaths.
Salih on Tuesday met with medical staff and praised their efforts to fight the virus, adding, “The battle has not ended yet, and we have many challenges ahead of us, and the final victory over the epidemic has not yet been achieved.” (Source: CNN)