A court in Iran has sentenced two journalists to prison terms of up to seven years for various charges, including collaborating with the U.S. government, according to local reports. The journalists, Niloufar Hamedi and Elaheh Mohammadi, have been in detention for over a year following their reporting on the death of Mahsa Amini while in police custody in September 2022. The sentences can be appealed within 20 days.
Niloufar Hamedi, who initially reported on Amini’s death related to her headscarf, has been sentenced to seven years in prison, while Elaheh Mohammadi, who covered Amini’s funeral, received a six-year sentence, as reported by the judiciary news website Mizan.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), based in New York, condemned the court’s decision and called for the immediate release of the journalists. Sherif Mansour, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa program coordinator, described the convictions as a threat to freedom of speech and an attempt by the Iranian government to criminalize journalism.
The Tehran Revolutionary Court had charged Hamedi and Mohammadi with collaborating with the U.S. government, conspiring against national security, and propagating against the system, according to Mezan.
Hamedi worked for the reformist newspaper Shargh, while Mohammadi was employed by Ham-Mihan, another reformist publication. Both journalists were detained in September 2022.
The U.S. special envoy for Iran condemned the sentences on social media platform X (formerly Twitter), stating that Niloufar and Elaheh should never have been jailed and criticizing the Iranian regime for imprisoning journalists due to its fear of the truth.
In May, the United Nations awarded Hamedi and Mohammadi its premier prize for press freedom, recognizing their dedication to truth and accountability.
The death of Mahsa Amini triggered widespread protests across Iran, posing a significant challenge to the Islamic Republic. These demonstrations were some of the most serious since the 2009 Green Movement protests. Although nearly 100 journalists were arrested during the protests, the reporting by Hamedi and Mohammadi played a crucial role in spreading awareness of the public anger that followed Amini’s death.
Their detentions have drawn international criticism, particularly regarding the months-long violent crackdown by security forces in the aftermath of Amini’s death. Human rights activists in Iran have reported that at least 529 people have been killed during the demonstrations, with over 19,700 others detained by authorities. Iran has not provided comprehensive casualty figures but has acknowledged that tens of thousands were detained.