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Source: Al-Monitor

Dec 21, 2023

Iranian journalist Sara Massoumi sentenced to prison over tweet: lawyer

Sara Massoumi criticized the Islamic Republic over the death of teenage girl Armita Geravand, who some allege was beaten for not wearing the hijab.

By Adam Lucente

An Iranian journalist said on Wednesday that she has been sentenced to prison for a social media post criticizing the government in regard to the death of a teenage girl, constituting another crackdown on press freedom in Iran following last year’s protests.

Sara Massoumi, the editor in chief of Iranian Diplomacy news site, posted on X that she was sentenced to six months in prison and banned from working in media for two years. Massoumi, formerly a reporter for the reformist news outlet Etemad, said in November that she had been charged with publishing lies and propaganda against the government.

Massoumi's lawyer, Ali Mojtahedzadeh, confirmed her conviction to the reformist news outlet Shargh. Mojtahedzadeh criticized the conviction, saying it violated Massoumi's journalistic rights, and called on Iran's chief justice to intervene, according to the outlet. 

The conviction relates to an October post Massoumi wrote on X about the death of Armita Geravand. The 16-year-old girl entered a subway car in Tehran on Oct. 1 and was carried off seconds later. She fell into a coma, and state television reported on Oct. 28 that she had died of brain damage.

What exactly happened to Geravand is disputed. A friend told state television that she hit her head, while activists abroad have alleged she may have been attacked for not wearing the hijab. Most cars on the Tehran Metro have multiple CCTV cameras, but state television did not publish any footage of Geravand in the car. The footage released to the public shows the area outside the train car, according to the Associated Press.

Massoumi posted on X about the incident following Geravand’s death, implying that Geravand’s death was nefarious and that the government hid the truth.

“They say that you 'passed.' We have known the trail of blood for years. The city smells of the blood of the mistreated. Did they eventually show your mother all the footage?” she wrote, according to Iran International.

X has long been banned in Iran, but government officials frequently use the platform, and Iranian citizens can access it via virtual private networks, aka VPNs. Massoumi has nearly 50,000 followers on X.

Why it matters: Iran lacks press freedom, and much of the country’s media is controlled by the government.

Independent journalists are "constantly persecuted by means of arbitrary arrests and very heavy sentences handed down after grossly unfair trials,” according to Reporters Without Borders.

The situation has worsened since widespread antigovernment protests began in September last year. The protests began after Mahsa Amini, a young Kurdish woman, was allegedly beaten to death over how she was wearing her hijab.

Iranian journalists have been prosecuted for their coverage of Amini’s death. In October, a Tehran court sentenced two female journalists to more than 10 years in prison, each over their coverage, leading to condemnation from the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Geravand’s case has been widely compared to Amini’s in international media. The protests over Amini’s death lasted for several months but died down earlier this year.

Some Iranian journalists said the government imposed a ban on reporting on Geravand’s death, according to Iran International.

Know more: Iran is a world leader in the death penalty, and executions have risen considerably in 2023, according to watchdogs.

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