Press freedom groups Monday condemned as “outrageous” the lengthy jail sentences handed to the two Iranian journalists who exposed the case of Mahsa Amini, saying both women were merely doing their jobs.
Amini died in September 2022 in police custody after being arrested for allegedly violating Iran’s strict dress rules for women.
Her death, which activists say was caused by a blow to the head in accusations denied by Tehran, sparked months of protests, which have now lost intensity in the face of a fierce crackdown.
Niloufar Hamedi, 31, reported for Iran’s Shargh newspaper from the hospital where Amini languished in a coma for three days before she died, and Elaheh Mohammadi, 36, a reporter for the Ham Mihan newspaper, went to Saqez to report on Amini’s funeral.
The two women were arrested shortly afterwards and have been held in detention ever since with both tried and now convicted on national security charges.
“These sentences are outrageous. A year’s provisional detention did not satisfy the thirst for revenge of the Islamic republic, which has punished these two courageous journalists very severely,” said Jonathan Dagher, head of the Middle East desk at Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF).
“They are being punished for doing their job,” he added.
They were both convicted by a Revolutionary Court of collaboration with Iran’s arch enemy the United States, the judiciary’s Mizan Online website said. Both vehemently denied the charges during their trials.
In its ruling, the Revolutionary Court sentenced Mohammadi to six years in jail, and Hamedi was handed seven years in prison, said Mizan.
The pair were also each given five-year sentences for conspiring against state security and one for propaganda against Iran, the website said, adding that the sentences would be served concurrently.
“The convictions of Niloufar Hamedi and Elaheh Mohammadi are a travesty and serve as a stark testament to the erosion of freedom of speech and the desperate attempts of the Iranian government to criminalize journalism,” said Sherif Mansour, the Middle East and North Africa program coordinator for the Washington-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).
Hamedi’s husband Mohammad Hossein Ajorlo wrote on X, formerly Twitter, that his wife had been informed of the “cruel” verdict on her birthday while on her way to a family meeting in prison.
According to the CPJ, Iran arrested at least 95 journalists in the crackdown after Amini’s death and, while most have now been released on bail, around a dozen remain behind bars including Hamedi and Mohammadi.
Mary Lawlor, the UN special rapporteur on human rights defenders, wrote on X she was “disturbed” by the sentences given to the journalists and the recent one-year term handed to the Amini family lawyer Saleh Nikbakht.
“Iran must stop the widespread persecution of rights defenders and journalists,” she said.