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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Journalists Charged With Propaganda Over Iran Protest Coverage

By VOA News November 08, 2022

Iran on Tuesday charged two female journalists with "propaganda against the state" over their coverage of mass protests.

The judiciary announced that the journalists — Niloufar Hamedi and Elaheh Mohammadi — are "remanded in custody for propaganda against the system and conspiring against national security."

Both women have been in custody already for more than a month.

Anti-government protests are in their seventh week in Iran, with rallies breaking out across the country after the death in September of Mahsa Amini, who was arrested for allegedly breaching strict dress rules for women.

Hamedi, who reports for the popular reformist newspaper Shargh, was arrested September 20, after she visited the hospital where Amini was taken.

Mohammadi, a reporter for the reformist daily Ham-Mihan, was arrested September 29 after traveling to Amini's hometown to cover the funeral.

Iran has responded to the protests with mass arrests. More than 2,000 people have been charged, half of them in Tehran, according to the judiciary.

As of Tuesday, more than 60 journalists had been detained, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), which is tracking arrests in Iran. Some of those were later released on bail, but new arrests are still being made into November.

The pace of arrests has "made Iran among the world's top jailers of journalists in an astonishingly short time," CPJ President Jodie Ginsberg said in a statement. "Iranian authorities are trying to silence a critical moment in the country's history."

Iran's mission to the United Nations did not respond to VOA's email requesting comment.

'Voice of the people'

With journalists in Iran under heightened risk, Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has created a help desk in collaboration with Nobel Peace laureate Shirin Ebadi.

In announcing the project, RSF said the help desk will offer digital support including providing virtual private networks, or VPNs, and helping with mirror sites to circumvent censorship, and will include a Farsi-language section.

Ebadi, who in 2003 became the first female Nobel Peace laureate from the Islamic world, said in a RSF statement, "In this sensitive situation, Iranian journalists and their work in reporting what is going on in Iran is essential. They risk their lives to be the voice of the people."

RSF Secretary General Christophe Deloire said the watchdog is providing media "with the tools and support needed to do their jobs as safely as possible" to "offer them some protection and minimize disruption to their work."

Iranian journalists outside the country are also under threat over protest coverage.

Police in London informed two British-Iranian journalists working for Volant Media of "credible threats to their lives" and those of their families, the station reported.

Volant Media is a London-based Farsi-language channel that has been covering the anti-government protests.

The broadcaster said the threats against its journalists are a "dangerous escalation" of attempts to suppress independent media.

The arrests and harassment of media over protest coverage is "unprecedented" and "we see women to be one of the primary targets," Kiran Nazish, founding director of the Coalition for Women in Journalism (CFWIJ), told VOA recently.

At least 17 female journalists are among those to be detained, according to CFWIJ.

The grassroots organization, which focuses on the protection of women and LGBTQ journalists, is among the media rights groups tracking arrests and trying to assist those under threat.

Iran has the third-worst media freedom record, after North Korea and Eritrea. The country ranks 178 out of 180 countries, where 1 has the best conditions for journalism on RSF's Press Freedom Index.

Some information is from Agence France-Presse.



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