Washington, D.C., August 10, 2020 — The Committee to Protect Journalists today called on Iranian authorities’ to reverse their decision to shut down the Tehran-based economic daily Jahane Sanat.
The Press Supervisory Board of Iran’s Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance revoked the operating license of Jahane Sanat for publishing an interview with a member of Iran’s National Coronavirus Task Force, who said the country’s officials are covering up the extent of the coronavirus outbreak, according to news reports.
“This latest move to target a newspaper for reporting on COVID-19 is an irresponsible act in the face of the biggest public health crisis of our time. The closure of Jahane Sanat is an unfortunate continuation of Iran’s long practice of suppressing information to the detriment of the Iranian people’s well-being,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa representative Ignacio Miguel Delgado.
In an interview yesterday headlined “No Trust in the Government’s Statistics,” government epidemiologist Mohammadreza Mahboubfar told Jahane Sanat that the country’s virus figures “have certainly been engineered since the start of the outbreak.” Mahboubfar said the government “covered up” the first case of the disease “for political and security reasons,” according to the interview.
Mohammadreza Saadi, the managing editor of the newspaper, told state-run Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) that the press supervisory board today “issued a verdict for the temporary suspension of the newspaper following the publication of the interview.” The IRNA report did not say how long the suspension would last. CPJ emailed the newspaper but did not receive an immediate response.
Last week the BBC’s Persian news service reported that the number of virus fatalities in Iran may be three times larger than official reports have stated.