TEHRAN (Press Shia) – Iraq’s Communications and Media Commission said Friday that it has banned international news agency Reuters from operating in the country for three months for reporting that the number of the nation’s novel coronavirus cases is much higher than official figures. 

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The decision came after Reuters reported that there are thousands of people in Iraq infected with the coronavirus and many more deaths than the government claims, Anadolu Agency reported.

It added that the agency was fined $20,000 and asked to apologize due to the story, which has “put social security at risk.”

Reuters reported that thousands of people in the country have contracted COVID-19 based on doctors’ claims and that the authorities are hiding the data from the public, which was rejected by Iraq’s Health Ministry.

The death toll in Iraq from the virus is 54 while the number of cases totals 772.

After first appearing in Wuhan, China in December, the virus has spread to at least 181 countries and regions.

Data compiled by US-based Johns Hopkins University shows worldwide infections surpassing 1 million with more than 52,800 deaths. Over 208,900 have recovered.