December 11, 2023

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Former Iranian TV Presenter Arrested After Accusing Iran of Concealing Coronavirus Cases

Citing the Iranian state media outlet Young Journalists Club (YJC), the Jerusalem Post reported that Shahriari was arrested for “disseminating false news about the novel coronavirus outbreak in Iran.”

Shahriari was arrested for reportedly accusing the Iranian government of initially hiding the spread of the virus from the public so as not to dissuade them from attending events celebrating the 41st anniversary of the Islamic Republic’s founding on February 11.

According to
Radio Farda, the Iranian branch of the US government-funded outlet Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, which also reported on the news, Shahriari also “made fun of the clerics who dominate Iran on social media for their inactivity and lethargy.”

“We have been in quarantine for a month, only eating and sleeping … Poor clergy! What a hardship they have endured in the past forty years,” Shahriari is quoted as saying, referring to the religious authorities within the Iranian government.

This is not the first time that Shahriari, who was recently banned from appearing on state radio and TV shows, has criticized the Iranian government. 

Radio Farda reported that he had criticized the authorities for allowing an Iraqi Shiite militia to enter Iran to “supposedly to assist flood-stricken people in the oil-rich province of Khuzestan, southwest Iran.” In addition, the former TV presenter previously shaved his beard in protest of the country’s supposed billion-dollar embezzlements under the guise of religious purposes. 

video shared by the Middle East Media Research Institute also showed Shahriari warning Iranians in January that the coming Persian year would be economically “hellish” for the public.

“The money you have in the bank is not safe in any way, shape, or form … Handle your finances!” Shahriari said in the video, accusing the banks in the country of stealing money from citizens.

“The public will be subjected to increased pressure, taxes will increase, and your livelihood will be in danger. The money you have in the banks is not safe in any way, shape, or form. My dear friends, the banks are bankrupt,” he said.

“The central bank wants to lend them money in order to raise them to their feet. It is not me saying this – later, I will broadcast a statement by Mr. Hatami Yazd, the former executive director of Saderat Bank. He said that all the banks are bankrupt and the government does not dare say this. Handle your finances,” he added.

Iran has repeatedly been accused of hiding the real number of coronavirus cases it has experienced. According to the latest data by Worldometer, there are almost 78,000 cases of the virus in the country, and more than 5,000 deaths have resulted. However, according to an April 7 report by Arab News, Hamid Souri, a member of Iran’s National Coronavirus Combat Taskforce, estimated that the real number of infected people in Iran is around 500,000.

According to a report by the Associated Press, which cites a document from the Iranian parliament, the country’s coronavirus death toll may be twice as high as officially reported. Although officials within the administration of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani have not publicly commented on the document, Deputy Health Minister Ali Reza Raisi said in a statement to the AP that “the real figures are more than the official statistics but it is not correct to multiply official figures by two or three.”
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