With the 2022 World Cup now underway in Qatar, three sports journalists and a sports photojournalist continue to languish in Iranian prisons.
Niloofar Hamedi, Ehsan Pirbornash, Saeedeh Fathi, and Aria Jafari were arrested in late September-October amid a fierce state crackdown on nationwide protests triggered by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in police custody.
Some of them have been remanded in custody despite the expiration of their arrest warrants; others have been deprived of their right to have a lawyer or have not been informed about the charges against them.
Jafari, an award-winning photojournalist, was arrested on September 25 at his home in the central city of Isfahan. He has won four awards in different festivals in Iran. He was previously arrested in 2014 for taking photographs from a protest gathering.
Hamedi, a reporter with Shargh newspaper, has not been allowed to see her family since her arrest on September 22. She is a well-known social and sports journalist who, in recent years, has covered many sports at all levels. Judiciary spokesman Masoud Satayshi has blamed Hamedi for "acting against national security and spreading propaganda" against the regime.
Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and the intelligence branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps have accused her of being a foreign agent. They also claimed that Hamedi published the first picture of Amini on her hospital bed. But IranWire, the first media outlet that reported Amini had fallen into coma, publishing pictures of her, denies the allegation.
Fathi, who has covered sports for two decades, was arrested on October 16 at her home in Tehran. Her family's attempts to understand the charges against her have so far been unsuccessful.
Pirbornash, a reporter for the state-run sports newspaper Iran Varzeshi and the editor-in-chief of the sports website Varzesh Bank, was arrested on October 28 at his home in Tehran.
The Society of Iranian Sports Writers, Journalist and Reporters (ISJA) has not taken any practical step to assert the rights of the jailed journalists. The ISJA has only released a vague statement so far expressing hope that their cases will be processed “quickly and fairly.” It did not name any of the journalists in question.
At the time, IranWire asked AIPS President Gianni Merlo about what his association has done for the arrested reporters.
"We took a stand. We do not have a legal weapon, but we will continue to protest around the world in cooperation with other journalist associations until all colleagues are released," he said.
Abdulhamid Ahmadi, an Iranian member of the AIPS board of directors, has kept silence in recent weeks. Some sports journalists in Iran believe Ahmadi is close to the security and intelligence organizations of the Islamic Republic.