Two award-winning journalists, Niloofar Hamedi and Elaheh Mohammadi, were among the first to report on the death of the Kurdish woman Jina Mahsa Amini in the fall of 2022, which triggered a huge wave of protests across the whole of Iran. They were immediately arrested and charged with collaborating with the United States, conspiring against state security, and propaganda against the Islamic Republic.

Their trial was held on camera and lasted several months. Both journalists have now been found guilty and sentenced to long prison terms: Niloofar Hamedi will serve seven years in prison, Elaheh Mohammadi six.

“First, they were accused of espionage, even though their employers, two Iranian newspapers, repeatedly stressed that both journalists were assigned to cover the case,” says Moein Khazaeli. Khazaeli studied law and political science at Tehran University and at Malmö University in Sweden. He currently works as a legal expert specializing in media issues.

Khazaeli points out that, even in Iranian law, the verdict has no legal basis — “above all because no evidence was presented against Hamedi and Mohammadi.” The verdict now claims that they changed societal behavior from passivity to activism. “This is not a criminal offense under Iranian law,” says Khazaeli. “It is absurd that the verdict contains this wording. It clearly shows how the Iranian judiciary and security agencies regard people who demand their civil rights as criminals.”

A warning sign

Nilufar Hamedi reported for Shargh, one of Iran’s biggest daily newspapers, from the hospital where Jina Mahsa Amini lay in a coma after being detained and presumably beaten by Iran’s so-called morality police. Elaheh Mohammadi, a reporter with the daily Ham-Mihan newspaper, traveled to Amini’s hometown of Saqqez in the Kurdistan province of northwestern Iran to cover her funeral, which was followed by one of the first protests. In May, while Hamedi and Mohammadi were being held in prison, the UN cultural organization UNESCO awarded the journalists its World Press Freedom Prize

in absentia.

The verdict sends “a warning sign to all media professionals who seek the truth and do their work despite reprisals,” the journalist Moloud Hajizadeh told DW. Hajizadeh was arrested several times for her reporting on the protest movements in Iran. In January 2021, she was sentenced to one year in prison, but fled Iran before she was due to start her sentence, and now lives in Norway.

“The political system shows how ruthlessly it deals with journalists and how easily it can ruin their lives by putting them behind bars,” she explains, adding that it was “no coincidence” that the verdict against the two journalists “was announced at the same time as the news that Armita was brain dead.”
New accusations against the morality police

The case of the 16-year-old schoolgirl Armita Geravand, who is in a coma, is stirring up Iranian society once more. According to an eyewitness, who spoke to Britain’s Guardian newspaper on October 5, Geravand was attacked on the Tehran subway on October 2 by a female “morality police” officer enforcing the requirement that women wear hijab. Geravand, who was on her way to school, was not wearing a headscarf. Iranian authorities deny this report; they claim that Geravand fainted because she had low blood pressure.

The Iranian authorities boast that the Tehran subway is monitored by surveillance cameras all across the network. And yet they are claiming that, of all places, the carriage in which Geravand was injured did not have a camera. Instead, they have published pictures from surveillance cameras at the station, but these do not provide any information about what happened in the carriage.

Iran’s Borna news agency, which is linked to the Ministry of Sport and Youth, said in a statement on Sunday that Geravand’s condition was “not encouraging, and despite the efforts of doctors, she appears to be brain dead.”

The case is reminiscent of Amini’s death in September 2022. Shortly after Amini was arrested by the morality police for allegedly not wearing her headscarf properly, she was taken to hospital in a coma. Her death led to months of protests against the political system, in which hundreds of people died and thousands were imprisoned — among them Niloofar Hamedi and Elaheh Mohammad, the journalists who publicized the case.

Source » dw