Iran Sentences Journalists for Covering Arrest of Kurdish Woman That Sparked Protests
On Sunday, Iran's judiciary announced that it had handed down jail sentences of several years to two journalists who had reported on the arrest of Kurdish woman Zhina (Mahsa) Amini. Her arrest had sparked nationwide protests in the country last year.
Zhina Amini, a 22-year-old woman, tragically died in police custody on September 16, 2022, after being detained for allegedly not adhering to a strict hijab dress code. Her death triggered the largest protest movement Iran has witnessed in the past four decades. Initially, the protests called for greater freedoms for women but swiftly evolved into a full-scale anti-government revolution. The authorities responded with a brutal crackdown, resulting in hundreds of deaths and thousands of arrests.
The journalists in question, Niloufar Hamedi from Shargh Daily and Elaheh Mohammadi from Sazandegi daily paper, have been accused of serious offenses. According to the judiciary's Mizan Online, they were "charged with collaborating with the American government," conspiring to commit crimes against Iran's national security, and engaging in propaganda against the Islamic republic.
Niloufar Hamedi, aged 31, received a seven-year jail sentence for allegedly collaborating with the United States. Elaheh Mohammadi, aged 36, was sentenced to six years in prison. Both journalists were also given five-year sentences for conspiring to commit crimes and engaging in propaganda against Iran. The sentences are to be served concurrently.
Mizan Online stated, "Sentences issued can be appealed in the Tehran Court of Appeals in person within 20 days."
In May, the United States denied any ties to Hamedi and Mohammadi, describing the allegations as "obviously not true." The U.S. government strongly criticized Iran for its repeated human rights violations and called on the Islamic republic to end arbitrary detentions and what it termed "sham trials."
Both journalists have been held in Tehran's notorious Evin prison since their arrest in September of last year.
According to the 2023 World Press Freedom Index released by the Paris-based Reporters without Borders, a non-profit organization dedicated to safeguarding freedom of information, Iran is ranked 177 out of 180 countries worldwide. This makes Iran one of the worst countries in the world for press freedom, with only Vietnam, China, and North Korea ranking lower on the list. The low press freedom ranking underscores the challenging environment journalists face in Iran when reporting on sensitive issues, such as protests and government actions.