The Guardian
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Iran ‘seems to be concealing’ coronavirus information


Iran "seems to be concealing" information on the coronavirus, which has officially killed 19 people in the country, media rights watchdog Reporters Without Borders said on Wednesday, accusing it of blocking independent reporting of the outbreak.

The Islamic republic "seems to be concealing information about the epidemic in line with China's example", the NGO was known by its French acronym RSF said in a statement.

"The authorities insist they have the situation under control but they have refused to publish exact figures for deaths and infections and have obstructed journalists trying to cover the story," it said.


RSF said freelance journalist Mohammad Mosaed was interrogated by Revolutionary Guard intelligence officials on February 23 over messages he had posted on social media concerning the epidemic.

He was released after questioning, but his phone and computer were seized and his Telegram messenger and Twitter account closed.


According to Iranian cyberpolice, 24 people have been arrested and charged with spreading fake news about the epidemic.

"RSF condemns Iran's persecution of media outlets and journalists publishing independent information," said the NGO's statement.

Iranian sanitary workers disinfect Qom's Masumeh shrine on February 25, 2020 to prevent the spread of the coronavirus which reached Iran, where there were concerns the situation might be worse than officially acknowledged. - The deaths from the disease -- officially known as COVID-19 -- in the Islamic republic were the first in the Middle East and the country's toll with so far a dozen people officially reported dead, is now the highest outside mainland China, the epidemic's epicentre. (Photo by MEHDI MARIZAD / FARS NEWS AGENCY / AFP)

President Hassan Rouhani, meanwhile, accused Iran's arch-foe the United States of trying to use propaganda about the virus to instill "fear" against the country.

The Americans "themselves are struggling with coronavirus", Rouhani said in a weekly cabinet meeting, a day after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused Iran of concealing the full extent of the outbreak.


The country's deputy health minister Iraj Harirchi has said he has contracted the virus.

RSF accused Tehran of "concealing information about several crises and catastrophes" over the past year, including flooding, mass protests and now the COVID-19 epidemic, warning that: "Withholding information can kill."


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