Two Iranian female journalists were sent to jail on October 22, 2023, for their reporting on the coverage of protests on the 2022 death in custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini.
According to the state-run IRNA news agency, Iranian journalist Niloofar Hamedi, aged 31, received a seven-year prison term, while Elahah Mohammadi, aged 36, was sentenced to six years in prison on charges of “collaborating with the hostile U.S. government.”
Additionally, both journalists were sentenced to five years for “acting against national security” and one year for “propaganda against the system.” These sentences will run concurrently with their longer terms.
The lawyers representing the journalists have stated that their clients vehemently deny the allegations against them. Deputy Special Envoy for Iran, Abram Paley, expressed his condemnation of the sentences, stating, “Niloofar and Elaheh should never have been jailed, and we condemn their sentences. The Iranian regime jails journalists because it fears the truth.”
Mahsa Amini‘s death while in the custody of the morality police, allegedly for violating Iran’s strict Islamic dress code, led to widespread national protests lasting for months, posing one of the most significant challenges to the ruling theocracy in decades.
Hamedi was arrested for taking a photograph of Amini’s parents embracing at a Tehran hospital while their daughter was in a coma. Mohammadi was detained later after covering Amini’s funeral in her hometown of Saqez.
These sentences are subject to appeal, and the defendants have 20 days to file an appeal. If the sentences are upheld, the time the two women have already spent in custody will be deducted from their prison terms.
Sherif Mansour, Middle East and North Africa program coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists decried the convictions, calling them a “travesty” and a testament to the erosion of freedom of speech in Iran, as well as the government’s attempts to criminalize journalism.
In the previous year, Iran’s Intelligence Ministry accused both women of working for a U.S. intelligence agency. Mohammadi is a reporter for the Ham Mihan newspaper, and Hamedi works as a photographer for the Shargh newspaper. Both have been held in Tehran’s infamous Evin prison since September 2022.
Additionally, Mahsa Amini’s lawyer, Saleh Nikbakht, received a one-year prison sentence for engaging in propaganda against the state and making comments to foreign and domestic media regarding the case.