Call for urgent action to free women journalists

10th April 2023

Press releaseFor immediate use

The Committee for the Defence of the Iranian People’s Rights (CODIR) have issued an urgent call for the immediate and unconditional release of journalists, Niloofar Hamedi and Elahe Mohammadi.  The two women have been imprisoned by the regime in Iran since September 2022, much of which has reportedly been in solitary confinement, on alleged charges of espionage and endangering national security, following their breaking of the news of the Mahsa Amini killing which sparked six months (and counting) of popular anti-government protests across Iran. 

Indeed, the only alleged ‘crime’ committed by the two journalists was to report on the death in custody of Ms. Amini, who was killed by the so-called ‘morality police’ for allegedly not adhering to Iran’s stringent mandatory hijab requirements.

Ms. Hamedi wrote for the reformist newspaper, Shargh, and was the first journalist to report on the death of Ms. Amini, doing so from Kasra Hospital in Tehran where she had been on life support for three days.  Meanwhile, Ms. Mohammadi had reported on the protests that followed on the back of Ms. Amini’s funeral in her hometown of Saqez in Iran’s north-western Kordestan province.

These imprisonments, as well as heinous mistreatment during incarceration, are part of an increasingly clear pattern of persecution against journalists in Iran particularly since the beginning of the protest movement under the banner of “Women, Life, Freedom” which emerged in the wake of Amini’s murder.  More than 70 journalists have been imprisoned in Iran since the protests began last September, almost half of whom are women.

While the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran formally recognises freedom of expression and freedom of the press, these provisions are more routinely underlined in Iran in terms of their flagrant breach and violation rather than their observance.  The formal rules that do exist in the country are often overlooked or circumvented by the judiciary, ministry of intelligence, and security forces – resulting in severe restrictions on journalists being able to undertake some of the most basic functions of their profession.  And for those who attempt to push at these boundaries, the consequences are usually equally severe.

“Journalism in Iran is not a job. It is a potential crime from the point of view of [the regime’s] security institutions,” stated a colleague of Ms. Hamedi at Shargh newspaper to the Middle East Eye in September 2022 in the immediate aftermath of her arrest.  “As a result, as I am talking to you right now, I am worried that these conversations will be overhead,” continued the source.  “When you see every day that one of your colleagues has been arrested, is it natural to worry and think that I might be next?” asked another of Ms. Hamedi’s colleagues rhetorically.

This recent upsurge in arrests may go beyond the regime’s usual harassment of journalists, but the phenomenon is not limited to Iranian journalists covering the ongoing protests.  The Islamic Republic has a long history of jailing and torturing journalists as well as generally subjecting them to extreme censorship and political pressure.  There are also numerous instances of journalists and writers who have taken a critical line of the regime, or an aspect of its policies and rule, having been executed or otherwise forcibly disappeared.

CODIR is calling for the release of the imprisoned women journalists, Niloofar Hamedi and Elahe Mohammadi, who have committed no crime.  They have done nothing more than expose just one of the countless criminal acts perpetrated by the theocratic dictatorship itself by reporting the death of Mahsa Amini and the decidedly murky circumstances surrounding it.

Since the death of Ms. Amini last September, Iranian people, with women and youth often at the forefront, have been taking to the streets across the country, despite the growing threats and brutal suppression carried out by the security forces acting on the commands of the regime’s leaders.

CODIR Assistant General Secretary, Jamshid Ahmadi, has expressed condemnation of the incarceration of the two women and the lack of due judicial process in Iran.

“These imprisonments are yet another example of the theocratic regime ruling Iran having no interest in justice and no commitment to press freedom,” he said.  “CODIR will continue to highlight the actions of the theocratic dictatorship in Iran in gagging those who have a legitimate right to freedom of expression.  The regime in Iran is clearly feeling under threat from the occurrence of regular popular protests and the mood of open defiance now on the streets of towns and cities across the land.  We reassert our ongoing commitment to support the popular struggles of the Iranian people towards the establishment of a modern, secular, and democratic government.”  

CODIR has called for all forces supporting the struggle for human and democratic rights in Iran, to condemn the imprisonment of the women journalists, through issuing statements in solidarity with those campaigning for their release. 

CODIR requests that its trade union affiliates write to the embassies of the Islamic Republic of Iran to make clear their opposition to these imprisonments and the restrictions placed upon freedom of expression in Iran. 

CODIR is also asking for individuals to write to their local MP, drawing their attention to the worsening human rights situation inside Iran, and requesting that they write to the embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran on similar grounds, as well as use their platform in parliament to draw attention to the plight of the people of Iran.


Further information for Editors

Contact Information for CODIR:

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Further information on CODIR

CODIR is the Committee for the Defence of the Iranian People’s Rights.  The organisation, campaigning for solidarity with the people of Iran, was established in 1981 and has consistently worked since then to expose human rights abuses in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

CODIR has worked closely with the trade union movement in the UK and Europe and North America, the peace movement, all major political parties and Amnesty International to press the case for an end to torture in Iran’s prisons.  Several major trade unions in Britain are affiliated to CODIR and support its campaign for peace, human and democratic rights, and social justice in Iran.

CODIR has published Iran Today, its quarterly journal, since 1981, explaining the latest developments in Iran and the most effective way in which British public opinion can demonstrate its solidarity with the people of Iran.

In recent years CODIR has worked closely with Stop the War Coalition and has been vocal against any form of foreign intervention in the internal affairs of Iran as an independent and sovereign country.

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