Iranian authorities have been ruthlessly targeting journalists as anti-government protests continue across the country in the face of lethal police violence.
The Iranian reformist daily challenged the Islamic Republic’s government to “declare journalism illegal” on its front page after journalists Niloofar Hamedi and Elahe Mohammadi were charged with “spying for the CIA”, Turkish news site Direnişteyiz reported.
The two women journalists played a key role in reporting the death of Jîna (Mahsa) Amini, the 22-year-old whose death on 16 September, days after being arrested and beaten by Iran’s morality police, triggered the nationwide wave of anti-government protests.
“They’ve accused Niloofar and Elahe of being trained by the CIA. I can’t be in contact with (any foreign journalists) any more,” the Guardian quoted a print journalist for an Iranian publication as saying.
“They’re closely monitoring us and I have been advised to cut all ties with foreign correspondents. I have received calls from abroad on my cellphone and if they monitor my phone records and find that someone from the west was calling, even if it’s a friend, that’ll be a huge risk.”
Another reformist daily, Sazandegi, devoted its front page on Monday to images of some of the journalists currently held by Iranian authorities, whose numbers are believed to exceed 20, Direnişteyiz said.
Meanwhile, anti-government demonstrations have continued well into their second month in cities across Iran, despite the government’s repression of free speech and the often-lethal interventions by security forces.
Last week, 32-year-old Kurdish woman Fereshta Ahmadi died after reportedly being struck by live fire from Iranian police in the mainly Kurdish city of Mahabadi in western Iran.
At least 253 people including 34 children have been killed by security forces during the protests, according to estimates by Iran’s Human Rights Activist News Agency (HRANA).
But the protests have retained their momentum in the face of the police violence, particularly in the majority-Kurdish cities in western Iranian provinces.
Amini’s home city of Saqqez became a focal point for the protests last week, when huge crowds defied government curfews to attend a service at her grave on the 40th day after her death.
The protests have also raged on at universities across Iran, where student protesters have clashed with plainclothes police officers and members of the government’s Basiji militias, CNN reported.
Gunshots were heard at one of these protests in the city of Sanandaj (Side), the capital of Iran’s Kurdistan province, said CNN.