Iran sentenced two female journalists, Elaheh Mohammadi and Niloufar Hamedi, for reporting a tragedy that triggered widespread civil unrest, showcasing the government’s intolerance for free press and dissent.
Elaheh Mohammadi and Niloufar Hamedi found themselves in the regime’s crosshairs after covering the death of Mahsa Amini, a case that incited national protests. The Revolutionary Court’s decision, as published on the judiciary’s Mizan Online website, was stark; Mohammadi received six years, and Hamedi was handed a seven-year sentence.
The authorities accused them of collaboration with the United States, a known adversary of Iran. Further, they were sentenced to additional years for alleged conspiracy against state security and propaganda against the Islamic Republic, though these are to run concurrently with their primary sentences.
The two journalists, associated with Ham Mihan and Shargh newspapers, respectively, have been behind bars in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison since their arrest in September 2022. Hamedi’s arrest followed her social media post showing Amini’s grieving family, while Mohammadi was detained during the coverage of the funeral-turned-protest.
International Outcry and Closed-Door Trials
The sentences, still open to appeal, have drawn no response from the defendant’s lawyer. They add to the concerning tally of over 90 professionals in the press field, as per Iranian media reports, who faced interrogation or arrest amidst the protests ensuing from Amini’s death.
Among those affected was Elaheh’s sister, Elnaz, also in the journalism field, who had her encounter with Evin prison and received a suspended sentence thereafter.
The judicial proceedings concerning Hamedi and Mohammadi, conducted away from public scrutiny, have drawn sharp criticism from various corners. Stakeholders range from anguished relatives to global institutions like Reporters Without Borders (RSF), clamouring for the journalists’ freedom.
Adding to the controversy, the judiciary linked the trials to purported ties with the U.S., a claim spotlighted by the California-based NGO United for Iran. This allegation surfaces in the broader context of severed diplomatic interactions between Iran and the U.S. after the 1979 Islamic upheaval.
Furthermore, the crackdown extended to legal professionals, with Mahsa Amini’s lawyer, Saleh Nikbakht, facing incarceration for allegedly disseminating state propaganda and engaging with various media outlets.
Despite a wave of pardons and sentence reductions sanctioned by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, figures like Mohammadi and Hamedi found no relief. The aftermath of the Amini-centered protests was grim, marked by numerous fatalities, mass arrests, and several executions described under the official rhetoric as quelling “riots.”
This ongoing situation underscores the dangerous landscape for journalistic integrity and free speech in Iran, where truth-telling activities are met with oppressive responses.