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Iran's Health Minister Replaces 'Coronavirus Spokesman' Who Was Too Active

Dr. Sima Sadat Lari was appointed as the Health Ministry's spokesperson on June 9.

Iran's Health Minister Saeed Namaki on Tuesday replaced the ministry's spokesman who had become a familiar face during the coronavirus crisis. He advised the new appointee to refrain from "political games" and concentrate on the ministry's expert and specialized activities.

Dr. Sima Sadat Lari, the Students Affairs Deputy of the Ministry, who has replaced Dr. Kianoush Jahanpur as spokesperson is a member of the Radiology Faculty of Hamedan University of Medical Sciences.

In his appointment letter, the Health Minister has emphasized that Dr. Lari is the first "official spokesperson" of the ministry. He also thanked Dr. Jahanpur and said he had fulfilled the work of spokesperson as head Public Relations rather than the ministry's spokesman.

Health Minister Namaki has also pointed out that the spokesperson is required to coordinate with him before expressing any opinion [not directly related to the expert opinion of ministry officials] in social media.

A tweet by Jahanpur showing destruction in U.S. protests, with an Arabic line saying "America kills the people"

The Health Minister's appointment letter implies issues between him and his deputy, Dr. Jahanpur, who often got into heated arguments with journalists and social media users over different matters including the coronavirus statistics that he announced on a daily basis.

Jahanpur also frequently tweeted or shared tweets about domestic and international issues such as the recent protests in the United States and his personal views on the same Twitter account that he used to make official ministry announcements and the coronavirus situation.

In early April in a tweet Jahanpur criticized China's coronavirus statistics, calling it "a bitter joke". He did not budge when the Chinese Ambassador in Iran, Chang Hua, reacted promptly by demanding him to "show respect to the truths and great efforts of the people of China".

The incident drew complaints from the Chinese government, a Revolutionary Guard official publication censured him for questioning China's honesty, and the Iranian Foreign Ministry had to subtly apologize to China for the Health Ministry Spokesman's remarks. Dr. Jahanpur was eventually forced to capitulate and praise China's coronavirus efforts.