Tehran’s prosecutor has announced the arrest of the administrator of the Iranian Labor News Agency (ILNA) Telegram channel for publishing a cartoon, titled "Islamic Medicine,” which satirizes a recent controversy about the use of camel urine as a coronavirus cure.
The cartoon had been online for just a few moments before being deleted – but not before being shared widely by other Telegram users.
The prosecutor, Ali al-Qassi, said on April 28 that immediately after the cartoon was published, the head of the ILNA news agency and the administrator of the Telegram channel had been summoned, and that the administrator of the Telegram channel of the news agency was still in custody.
"After seeing the image, it was ordered to be removed immediately, and both the head of the ILNA news agency and the administrator of the agency's Telegram channel were summoned and arrested that night," the Tehran prosecutor said.
"Currently, the channel's administrator is in custody, and an investigation is under way to identify the perpetrators," al-Qassi said. He did not provide any further explanation for the arrest.
The newspaper Eqtesad Bartar later published a report saying that the controversial cartoon had been published without the knowledge of ILNA officials.
The cartoon showed a picture of Mehdi Sebili, the director of the Sadeq Medicine Scientific and Educational Association, holding a medicine named “Imam Sadeq” medication, which Sebili in the cartoon explained was actually camel urine. The other side of the cartoon shows an ayatollah, Abbas Tabrizian, who is holding a second medicine, called “Imam Kazem” medicine, which is said to be violet flower oil. The two medicines are named after major figures in Islamic history.
In this picture, a caricature resembling Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, wearing in a medical uniform, is hanging on the wall. The Khamenei finger has raised a finger indicating a call for silence. The cartoon is intended to lambast statements that have circulated in Iranian media promoting “traditional” cures such as camel urine and violet flower oil as treatments for the COVID-19 disease.
The ILNA news agency denied publishing the cartoon, which others had called “immoral” and “obscene,” and said that others who opposed the new agency’s line had published the cartoon using its name and logo.