Revolutionary Guards arrested four journalists working for the Iranian Student News Agency (ISNA) in Isfahan on October 27, according to the agency and BBC Persian.
Although authorities released two journalists several hours later, journalists Zahra Mohammadi and Sanam Farsi are still under interrogation. Mohammadi is ISNA’s Isfahan editor and Farsi is the agency’s social affairs editor.
Journalists in Iran told IranWire that after receiving verbal summons over the telephone, Mohammadi and Farsi contacted ISNA’s director-general, who advised them that they did not have to present themselves to any legal authority until they received an official summons. However, amid pressure to turn themselves in, the two journalists reported to a specified, unknown location.
The arrests followed the detention of Arya Jafari, a photojournalist at ISNA on October 22 after he sold photographs of the demonstrations against the recent acid attacks in Isfahan to Associated French Press (AFP). Although authorities informed his family he would be released on bail a day after his arrest, his whereabouts and the charges against him are still unknown.
Although no official explanation has been given, it is widely believed the arrests are in connection with the protests. A day after ISNA’s coverage of the demonstration, Iran’s Supreme National Security Council wrote to the agency, warning reporters not to link acid attacks in Isfahan with retaliations against so-called "bad hejab” — where women are accused of wearing Islamic headscarves in an inappropriate manner.
Following this, ISNA published an interview with Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami, the Interim Friday Prayers Leader for Tehran, who called for legal action to be taken against media outlets that libel the Islamic regime and those faithful to its values.
On the morning of Tuesday, October 28, Seyed Nezamoddin Moussavi, director-general of Fars News Agency, which is affiliated to the Revolutionary Guards, spoke to Mizan News Agency about the acid attacks. “This political current originated outside the country,” he said. He said foreign media had reported that 4,000 motorcycle riders tasked with enforcing the “promotion of virtue and prevention of vice” had taken to the streets, a claim that was simply untrue. In addition to foreign entities, he said, anti-revolutionary media within the country and ignorance among some citizens were also to blame.
“Blowing up events out of proportion proves they have a plot and they want to achieve a certain goal,” he said, echoing comments from the commander of the Basij, Mohammadreza Naghdi, who argued that Iranian enemies were behind the protest and accused "anti-revolutionary" factions within the country of using the unrest to their advantage.
Hardliners also suggested that the extensive coverage of the protest might lead to security concerns both in Isfahan and beyond.