Reuters news agency has been fined and suspended from Iraq after reporting that the official numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country were not accurate. The agency says it "will continue to report on Iraq."
Reuters news agency has said they "stand by their story" that Iraq was inaccurately under-reporting cases of coronavirus, despite being given a three-month ban on working in the country.undd
In an April 2 article that cited medics, Reuters reported that the official numbers of COVID-19 cases in Iraq — 772 confirmed cases and 54 deaths at the time — were significantly fewer than the real numbers of infections. Their sources put the real number between 3,000 and 9,000.
A day later, Baghdad said it would impose a fine on the news agency and suspend its permission to report in the country.
'No contact' from authorities
"We have not received notification from any Iraqi authorities regarding our license and are currently seeking clarification on the matter," the news agency said in a statement on Saturday.
"We stand by our story of April 2, which was based on multiple, well-placed medical and political sources, and also fully represented the position of the Iraqi health ministry," they added.
"Reuters will continue to report on Iraq in a fair, independent and impartial way, as we do all around the world."
In addition to the three-month suspension, Reuters will be fined 25 million Iraqi dinars ($21,000, €19,400), according to the Communications and Media Commission, Iraq's media regulator. It also urged Reuters to issue a public apology for the report.
Reuters cited three doctors, a Health Ministry official and a senior political official in the report. All spoke on condition of anonymity as they had allegedly been instructed not to speak to the media.
"Some news agencies and social media pages falsely claimed, quoting unnamed medical sources, that the number of new COVID-19 cases and fatalities announced by Iraqi authorities is inaccurate," the Iraqi government wrote on Twitter.
The Iraqi commission claims they made an attempt to contact the Reuters office manager in Baghdad following the report, but no-one answered the call, according to the Associated Press.