Journalists Niloofar Hamedi and Elahe Mohammadi have been held in Iran’s notorious Evin prison since late September, as Iranian religious leaders struggled to contain a wave of public anger and protests calling for their overthrow. Iranian women and young people have been at the forefront of the uprising, the longest protests in decades.
In the joint statement sent to Iranian media on Friday evening local time, Iran’s intelligence ministry and the intelligence agency of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards, the much-feared guardians of Iran’s security state, accused the CIA of orchestrating the reports of Hamedi and Mohammadi, and said that “allied spy services and fanatical proxies”, planned the nationwide unrest without a leader.
As protests rock Iran, its most feared security force is on the prowl
The CIA, along with British, Israeli, and Saudi spy agencies, “widely planned to ignite a national riot in Iran with the aim of committing crimes against the great nation of Iran and its territorial integrity, as well as laying the groundwork for intensification of external pressures,” the unsubstantiated statement charged. He also claimed without providing evidence that the two journalists were trained overseas and sent to provoke Amini’s family and spread misinformation.
The editors of Hamedi and Mohammadi denied the charges on Saturday and said the reporters were just doing their job.
“What they called evidence for their charges is the exact definition of the professional duty of journalists,” the Journalists Association of Iran said. in a statement on Saturday.
Journalists from two Iranian news outlets outside the country who were among the first to report on Amini’s case also condemned the accusations and told the Washington Post that neither Hamedi nor Mohammadi were their sources. origin.
“It’s a threat to other journalists, other media that if they continue to publish the news… they’re going to have these accusations,” said Aida Ghajar, a France-based reporter for Iran Wire. by a former Newsweek reporter. .
“This scenario ‘of calling journalists foreign spies’ is the scenario that the Iranian regime always uses against journalists,” she added.
Mohsen Moheimany, a journalist with London-based Iran International, another frequent target of Iranian state propaganda, also said they relied on their own sources and called the accusations “repressing the media. and opposition”.
In a possibly ominous sign, the Revolutionary Guards chief warned on Saturday that ‘today is the last day of the riots’ – the body’s toughest statement yet signaling it could step up its crackdown wide-ranging protests, now in their seventh week.
Rights groups say more than 200 people, including dozens of children, have been killed and more than 12,000 people arrested. Authorities began issuing the first charges against some 500 detained protesters on Monday.
About 45 Iranian journalists are among those arrested, according to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists. Most US media outlets, including The Post, are barred from reporting in Iran, where widespread cellular and internet communication outages in recent weeks have made reporting extremely difficult.
Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian was previously held in Evin prison for 544 days on trumped up charges of being a US spy.
Hamedi, a reporter for the reformist daily Shargh, published a widely shared report on September 16 from Kasra Hospital in Tehran, where Amini died after being hospitalized on September 13 while in police custody for an alleged violation. clothes. Hamedi also shared a photo of Amini’s distraught family in hospital on his now deactivated Twitter account.
Iranian authorities claimed that Amini had a heart attack; her family said police beat their daughter, also known by her Kurdish name, Jina, to death.
Mohammadi, a journalist with Ham Mihan, another daily aligned with Iran’s reformist politicians, reported on September 17 on Amini’s funeral in his hometown of Saqqez in the northwestern province of Kurdistan. Security forces attacked the funeral, where mourners shouted anti-Islamic Republic slogans and women removed their compulsory headscarves in the uprising’s first major demonstration.
Security forces arrested Hamedi on September 22 and Mohammadi on September 29. Both were held in solitary confinement and outside.
Despite the dangers of publicizing state abuse, information about Amini’s case quickly began to circulate.
Sajjad Khodakarami, an Iranian journalist based in Istanbul, said he first saw an Instagram story posted in late September 13 by a witness at Kasra hospital sharing reports that a woman had been beaten into a coma by police. mores. Khodakarami contacted the person the next morning, who said he had been summoned by Iranian authorities and told to remove the post. Khodakarami, who tweeted about emerging reports and worked with Iran International to cover the story, shared a screenshot of the Instagram post with The Post, but did not name the person to protect their safety.
Shargh editor Mehdi Rahmanian, who has previously been arrested for the paper’s reporting, issued a statement on Saturday denying the state charges.
“Publishing the photo and the report on Mahsa Amini was the right thing to do and we were just doing our duty to spread the news,” he said. Rahmanian coordinated with Hamedi “at all stages of his work”, he added.
Gholamhossein Karbaschi, reforming politician and Editor-in-chief Ham Mihan told the semi-official ILNA news agency on Saturday that an open media environment in Iran “will be more beneficial for the country’s security”.