Iran has threatened to flog and imprison anyone caught ‘spreading fake news’ about the coronavirus outbreak that has already killed 26 people in the Islamic Republic.
Hassan Norouzi, spokesman for parliament’s legal and judicial committee, said ‘spreading lies’ is punishable by one to three years in prison with flogging, in accordance with Shariah law.
‘Spreading fake news over coronavirus outbreak will [make] people panic. It also will pave the ground for the country’s shutdown,’ the Tehran Times reported him saying in translation.
Nourouzi added that 24 citizens were already in custody for ‘spreading rumours’ and that the harsh sentences were warranted by Shariah.
Pharmacists talk with customers at drugstore in downtown Tehran, amid fears the country is running low on medical supplies
Three women and a police officer wear masks in Tehran on Sunday to guard against the coronavirus in Iran, which now has the worst outbreak in the Middle East
An Iranian woman wears a protective mask to prevent contracting coronavirus, as she is seen at a drug store in Tehran
Iran uses Shariah law as the basis of its legal code, allowing crimes deemed malicious against the state to be punished with corporal beatings.
On Monday, the Iranian government condemned moves to politicize the outbreak and criticised media outlets for what it saw as flinging accusations against the health ministry.
Iran has confirmed seven new deaths from coronavirus over the past 24 hours, the health ministry said today, taking the overall toll to 26, the highest outside China.
An additional 106 confirmed infections took the total number of cases so far to 245, ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour told a daily cabinet briefing.
In the wake of surging cases, officials have warned against visiting the holy city of Qom, where many of the infections have been detected, but President Hassan Rouhani yesterday refused to cordon off the religious hub, saying the regime will focus on containing individuals, not areas.
The city is the second most holy site for Shi’a Muslims and it’s feared pilgrims could spread the virus through the Middle East.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani makes a statement on coronavirus at a cabinet meeting in Tehran, Iran on February 26, 2020
Rouhani admitted that it may take ‘one, two or three weeks’ to get control of the virus in Iran, which has been linked to almost all of the cases across the Middle East.