In Iran, journalists muzzled by the regime
Niloufar Hamedi was the first to relay the death of Mahsa Amini, the spark of a movement that still shook Iran a month later. The journalist, specializing in women’s rights, was arrested for having published a photo of the young Kurd, in a coma, just before her death on September 16 in Tehran. Like her, at least 30 journalists have been arrested, a number established after documented investigations. But many local reporters have suffered the same fate in small towns, with no figures available.
“I was threatened by the security services,” Farshid, a former colleague of Niloufar Hamedi, tells the newspaper Sharq. Like others, he was ordered to remain silent and not publish any information about the protests. “Recently, they told me on the phone that covering these events, even on my personal social media accounts, would have serious consequences. They seem to enjoy spreading fear,” adds the journalist.
« You never know when it’s your turn »
Farshid still retains the trauma of seeing his colleagues being arrested. “Security forces attack at night, come in groups and break into journalists’ homes, without a warrant. Not only do these men beat and arrest them, but they confiscate their cell phones, computers, books and personal effects. You never know when it’s your turn. If you refuse to comply with their instructions, the fear of being arrested accompanies you at all times. »
Threats and intimidation also target families. Mansoor, a photojournalist who works for Iranian news agencies, received a call warning him not to post images of the chaos in the streets at the start of the protests. After ignoring the phone call, his family was threatened: “I have an old father who lives in a village far from Tehran. They told him, « If you don’t control your son, we’ll do it our way. » »
Mansoor continues: “My mission is to document the events of my country, and it is not up to me to decide whether to publish them or not. But I reserve the right to publish them on my accounts on social networks. I know very well that many of my colleagues are imprisoned for having defended this right. »
The illusion of bail
Imprisoned journalists have, according to their relatives, no access to legal representation. Atousa is the sister of Arash, an economics journalist for a Tehran daily, who was recently arrested. Two people in civilian clothes came to the editorial office and took Arash away without explanation, but showing a map.
“They belonged to the intelligence department of the Revolutionary Guards. They arrested Arash without warning or charge, says Atousa, assuring that they would bring him back after a few hours of conversation. Instead, Arash called home after four days to tell us not to worry, that he was still in jail and hoped to be released on bail soon. »
Temporary freedom. Detainees released are released in exchange for very large sums, in the form of cash or property deeds held until trial. But being arrested for security reasons often results in convictions and a return to prison.
“Having a lawyer would improve the situation, of course. It’s hard not to know how the trial might turn out, confides Atousa. Especially since the arrested journalists do not receive any support from the media for which they work. This is a real reason for discouragement. »
“Disorder of public order”, “propaganda against the regime” … the charges are not lacking. Working for foreign media is even worth condemning « for espionage » Where « foreign intelligence ». With the threat of long sentences and the dismissal of his local media.