We’ve been screaming from the rooftops about the need for more transparency regarding COVID-19, and tragically so many governments are going in the opposite direction. The latest is Iraq, where the nation’s media regulator revoked Reuters’ “license” for three months while also fining the organization ~$ 21,000 for daring to claim that the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases was actually higher than the government was reporting. According to the Communications and Media Commission, this violated rules and would “have serious repercussions on societal health and safety.”
Remember that we’ve been calling out various places — including inside the United States — that are saying that posting “fake news” about COVID-19 should be a criminal offense. This is what happens when you allow that kind of thinking. The arguments made by those who think they’re stamping out “disinformation” are identical to those made by Iraq’s media regulatory agency to silence accurate reporting.
At the very least, it appears that Iraq’s President recognizes this is ridiculous and dangerous:
Asked about the Reuters suspension in an interview with Christiane Amanpour on CNN, Iraqi President Barham Salih said it was a “regrettable decision” taken by a commission which 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 said.
Still, considering how many people are pushing for laws against or punishment for “fake news,” please, please remember that it will absolutely be abused to stifle or chill legitimate, if confrontational, news reporting over government claims. And in a time when we need more transparency than ever, such crackdowns on reporting could mean many lives are literally put at risk.