The two journalists sentenced in Iran to 13 and 12 years in prison just for doing their job were among the first to give news after the death of Mahsa Amini
Thirteen and twelve years of imprisonment. This is the verdict to which the Iranian journalists Niloofar Hamedi and Elaheh Mohammadi were sentenced on October 22nd, 2023: the two young reporters were among the first to report the death of Mahsa Amini on September 22 last year and her funerals. The sentence came after 13 months of preventive detention, and fell on Niloofar Hamedi on her thirty-first birthday, when she was about to meet her family in prison.
The two separate trials against the two young colleagues took place behind closed doors before branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court of Tehran presided over by judge Abulqasem Salavati, known for his heavy hand against dissent, without adequate guarantees for the rights of the defense and despite widespread calls for theirUrelease. As a supplementary punishment, they have also been banned from participating in political parties, groups, virtual activities, media, and the press for a period of two years following imprisonment. Upon upholding these sentences, Mohammadi will be imprisoned for a total of 6 years, while Hamedi will be imprisoned for a total of 7 years.
Last October, the reformist newspapar Shargh published an open letter signed by 200 Iranian journalists, writers, and intellectuals demanding the immediate release of Mohammadi and Hamedi.
Niloofar Hamedi, who worked for Shargh, was the first to break the news of Jina Mahsa Amini’s death, three days after the young Kurdish woman’s arrest by the moral police, publishing a photo of her parents hugging in pain in the ward where she was hospitalized. Elaheh Mohammadi, of the reformist newspaper Hamihan, followed her funeral in the Kurdish city of Saqqez, where the demonstrations of the Women Life Freedom movement started, only to continue for months throughout the country.
The Committee to Protect Journalists estimates that around a hundred Iranian journalists have been arrested since the protests began, including dozens of women. Authorities have charged nearly all with “spreading propaganda against the ruling system” and “colluding and acting against national security”. Many have been released on bail while awaiting trial or already sentenced to years in prison. Under the Iranian penal code, propaganda convictions can carry a term of up to one year and collusion up to five years, but CPJ has learned of several journalists who were sentenced in excess of legal maximums, including extra prison time, lashes with a whip, bans on working or leaving the country, or mandatory community service. In the meantime the arrests of journalists do not stop.
Together with the journalist Narges Mohammadi – who is serving a long prison sentence and was recently awarded the Nobel Peace Prize – Niloofar Hamedi and Elaheh Mohammadi have received the 2023 UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize.
An appeal for their release had already been launched last year, to the Iranian government and President, by the 7th Forum of Mediterraean Women An appeal that is now renewed by th Forum itself, in Bari from 22 to 24 November 2023.