Tehran, Iran , In a controversial case that has raised concerns over press freedom in Iran, two prominent female journalists, Negin Bagheri and Elnaz Mohammadi, have been sentenced to three years in prison on charges of “conspiracy” and “collusion.” The verdict, delivered today, includes a unique condition where the journalists will serve only a fraction of their sentence.
Bagheri and Mohammadi are set to spend approximately one-fortieth of their three-year sentence behind bars, equivalent to less than a month. Their defense lawyer, Amir Raisian, confirmed this arrangement, explaining that the remaining period of their sentence is suspended for five years. During this suspended period, the journalists will be required to undergo “professional ethics training” and will be “prohibited from leaving the country.”
The details of the allegations against Bagheri and Mohammadi have not been disclosed in the media reports.
Elnaz Mohammadi’s sister, Elaheh, who also works for the reformist Ham Mihan daily newspaper, has been in prison since September of the previous year. Her arrest was related to her reporting on the funeral of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian Kurd who tragically died in police custody on September 16, 2022. Amini’s arrest, stemming from an alleged breach of Iran’s dress code, ignited widespread protests throughout the country that persisted for several months.
Foreign-based human rights organizations have reported numerous arrests leading up to the anniversary of Mahsa Amini’s death.
Negin Bagheri, another journalist implicated in this case, is associated with the unaffiliated Haft-e Sobh newspaper.
Elnaz Mohammadi faced prior detention earlier this year when she was held in Evin prison for a week in February. The reasons behind her detention at that time remain unclear.
The protests that erupted following Mahsa Amini’s death resulted in hundreds of casualties, including dozens of security personnel, and led to thousands of arrests. Iranian officials attributed the turmoil to foreign-instigated “riots” and subsequently executed seven individuals involved in protest-related cases, particularly those linked to violence against security forces.
Local media have reported alarming statistics, revealing that more than 90 journalists have been questioned or arrested in Iran since the onset of the protests.
In a recent development, Nazila Maroufian, a journalist who had previously defied Iran’s strict dress code and was released on bail in August, was rearrested for not wearing a headscarf in public, according to an Iranian news agency report.
This case raises concerns about the treatment of journalists and freedom of speech in Iran, as it unfolds amidst a backdrop of ongoing challenges to press freedom in the region.