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Source: Iranintl

Aug 10, 2023

Revolutionary Guard Threaten Iranian Reporters On Journalist Day

Author: Maryam Sinaee

The Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) spokesman threatened Iranian journalists this week not to help the enemy with their work, meaning to avoid critical reporting.

"Creating hope against the hostile media’s attempts to cause disillusionment is one of the most important missions of those working in the media," stated Ramezan Sharif during a ceremony on Monday, held in honor of National Journalists Day (August 8).

President Ebrahim Raisi visited the state broadcaster (IRIB), a massive organization with over 40,000 employees, to express his appreciation for their work, ahead of Journalists Day.

In a brief speech, he asserted that his government listens to criticism.However, Iranian journalists are currently remembering two colleagues who have been imprisoned for almost a year due to their reporting on the death of Mahsa Amini while in custody in September 2022.

They are also paying tribute to over a hundred other journalists who have been arrested since then and handed various punishments, including prison sentences, bans on using mobile phones and social media, travel restrictions, and even lashes.

Several newspapers, including Shargh, Ham-Mihan, and Etemad, dedicated articles on Monday to Niloofar Hamedi, a reporter from the reformist Shargh newspaper, and Elaheh Mohammadi, a reporter for the reformist Ham-Mihan.

Niloufar Hamedi and Elahe Mohammadi jailed for almost a year for reporting on the death of Mahsa Amini.

These two young women were the first journalists to cover Amini’s story, which sparked widespread protests across the country from mid-September to early January.

Under the headline "Journalists More Abandoned Than Ever," with photos of the imprisoned journalists displayed on its front page, Ham-Mihan, a newspaper not directly controlled by the government, highlighted the intensified lack of freedom of speech and job security that journalists have faced in the past year. The newspaper stated that journalism has now become a "high-risk" profession.

Since last year’s protest movement, the press has had to contend with "professional claimants" who scrutinize newspapers daily to find reasons for legal action. Ham-Mihan added that authorities expect both print and online media to align only with the views of those in power.

A photo taken by Hamedi at the hospital where Mahsa Amini was in a coma in 2022, with her parents embracing her, rapidly spread across social media platforms. Amini had been fighting for her life for three days after sustaining injuries during her arrest by the morality police for wearing her hijab “improperly.”

Mohammadi in turn managed to travel to Amini’s hometown of Saqqez in western Iran to report on her funeral on September 17, which thousands attended.

The two journalists, accused of being CIA agents by the Revolutionary Guards' intelligence organization (SAS), faced charges of propaganda against the regime and conspiracy to commit acts against national security.

Hamedi and Mohammadi were tried behind closed doors in June and are awaiting sentencing. Since their arrest over 310 days ago, they have been denied family visits on many occasions, have never been granted furlough, and have been denied access to an attorney during their trials.

Dozens of other journalists are currently awaiting sentencing. Some have been banned from journalism, including Etemad newspaper’s managing director, Elias Hazrati, who was recently prohibited from any media work for a year.

Elaheh Mohammadi’s twin sister, Elnaz Mohammadi, who has also been a journalist for over a decade, told Etemad newspaper that her sister and Niloufar Hamedi were driven by their commitment to society and their calling as journalists.

“There is pain, and it’s so heavy that it diminishes hopes for the future of journalism in Iran. But I must say, the light is still alive and shining,” she said.

“Journalists’ Day is still a good occasion for us to remind ourselves of what is happening to the media in the country, how much we have to self-censor, and sometimes not do what we thought was one hundred percent right,” Niloufar Hamedi’s husband, Mohammad-Hossein Ajorlou, told Etemad.

Government pressures on journalists are forcing them to leave the country, pursue other jobs if they choose to remain in Iran, or compromise the quality of their work to avoid trouble if they continue as journalists, Ajorlou added."

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