More than 300 Iranian journalists have demanded the release of two colleagues arrested over exposing police brutality that killed Mahsa Amini over ‘bad hijab.’
Their call came in a statement published by the Iranian Etemad and other newspapers on Sunday.
Iranian journalists and social media activists have also condemned a joint statement issued by the country's top intelligence organizations that accused the two female journalists of instigating "riots" in Iran by covering Amini’s death.
Iran's Ministry of information that operates under President Ebrahim Raisi's administration and the IRGC Intelligence Organization which operates directly under Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and reports to him had in a joint statement on October 28 accusing Niloufar Hamedi and Elahe Mohammadi, two women journalists arrested days after protests began in September, of spying for several foreign agencies including the CIA, MI-6 and Mossad.
Many Iranian journalists, including Hassan Namakdoust Tehrani have pointed out that "what Hamedi and Mohammadi did was simply fulfilling their responsibility as journalists."
Reformist daily Sharq, for which Niluofar Hamid worked wrote: "Niloufar has been in jail for more than a month. Saturday, October 29 is her birthday, and we hope that she and all other journalist in jail return to their newspapers soon."
Meanwhile, Washington Post’s Jason Rezaian, an Iranian American journalist who was a hostage in Iran in mid-2010s and was released as part of a prisoner swap after the 2015 nuclear deal with the West, wrote on Saturday, "In a rare moment of agreement the Islamic Republic’s Ministry of Intelligence & the Intelligence unit of the IRGC issued a ridiculous statement claiming journalists Niloofar Hamedi & Elahe Mohammadi are agents of the CIA, MI6, Mossad, Saudi intelligence & several other countries."
Reformist commentator Abbas Abdi referred to the Iran intelligence agencies accusation that the two journalists were trained by foreigners to report on Mahsa Amini's death, wrote: "Sending a prominent journalist such as Elaheh Mohammadi to a training session to learn to report is like sending a person with a Ph.D. in mathematics to a class to learn the rules of multiplication."
The managing editor of Ham Mihan, the newspaper where Elaheh Mohammadi's report about Mahsa Amini's death was published wrote that her coverage was similar the the IRGC-linked Fars news agency's account of the event and what other agencies had reported at the time with even more details. Gholamhossein Karbaschi pointed out that it is not easy for a reporter to work in a security atmosphere.
He said the authorities have told him that the accusations against the journalist had nothing to do with her job as a journalist. Nonetheless, the statement by the intelligence organizations is about Ms. Mohammadi's role as a reporter, Karbaschi said, adding that this attitude toward journalism is not in the interest of Iran's media environment. Referring to the point the agencies made about the reporters' trying to be the first to break the news, Karbaschi said this is what every good journalist does, and the authorities had better change their attitude.
He added: "No news will remain concealed forever and it will reach the whole world soon." Kartbaschi pointed out that "It is in the interest of the country to have the right news disseminated by domestic press rather than creating a situation in which Iranians get the news first from foreign-based media," referring to Persian broadcasters abroad.
Prominent Iranian journalist Niloufar Ghadirian, the former editor of Hamshahri daily wrote: "Niloufar Hamedi and Elaheh Mohammadi will be always remembered as honest, brave and dedicated journalists. Their names will be remembered in journalism courses for many years."