Iran has labelled Niloofar Hamedi and Elahe Mohammadi as CIA spies for being the first journalists to report on Mahsa Amini, 22, who died while being held by Iran’s morality police. Both journalists are presently detained in Iran’s notorious Evin prison, according to a joint statement issued on Saturday by the intelligence ministries of Iran and the Islamic Revolutionary Guards.
The Iranian government also accused the CIA, Mossad, and other western intelligence organisations of orchestrating the massive demonstrations, in which security forces are said to have murdered at least 234 protestors, including 29 children, in crackdowns. Both women have been charged with serving as ‘main sources of news for foreign media,’ with Hamed being singled out as having purported to be a journalist in order to pressure the family of Amini into disclosing information regarding their daughter’s death.
Notably, Hamedi was the first reporter to post pictures of Amini, who was receiving treatment at the hospital at the time. The initial wave of protests began in Tehran as a result of Hamedis’ photographs, and they quickly expanded to other cities. As a result of Mohammadi’s reporting from Amini’s funeral in her hometown of Saqqez on September 22, she has been charged with getting training as a foreign agent overseas.
The statement contains no proof that the two journalists travelled abroad or underwent espionage training. The US is also charged by the two intelligence agencies with spending billions of dollars annually to track down individuals in Iran and link them to ‘Western networks under the guise of human rights work and democracy promotion.’
The declaration has shocked Iranian media, which anticipates further crackdown in the days ahead. Since the demonstrations began more than a month ago, more than 40 journalists have been arrested. ‘They are closely watching us, and I have been told to break off all contact with international reporters’. A print journalist for an Iranian weekly told the Guardian, ‘I have received calls from overseas on my cellphone, and if they check my phone records and discover that someone from the west was calling, even if it’s a buddy, that’ll be a big risk’.