Iranian authorities released editors Zahra Mohammadi and Sanam Farsi on bail today, according to journalists in Iran. Revolutionary Guards arrested them on October 27.
Mohammadi and Farsi, the editor-in-chief of the Iranian Student News Agency (ISNA) and the ISNA Isfahan social affairs editor, were detained along with two other colleagues on Monday. The other two, whose identities are unknown, were released the same day, according to ISNA and BBC Persian.
Journalists told IranWire that after receiving verbal summons over the telephone, Mohammadi and Farsi contacted ISNA’s director-general, who told them that they did not need to present themselves to any legal authority until they received an official order. However amid pressure to turn themselves in to the authorities, the two journalists reported to a specified, unknown location.
The arrests follow the detention of Arya Jafari, a photojournalist at ISNA on October 22 after he sold photographs of the protests against the recent acid attacks in Isfahan to Associated French Press (AFP). Although authorities informed his family he would be released on bail the day after his arrest, his whereabouts and the charges against him are still unknown.
On October 28, ISNA announced Jafari was only a freelancer working for the agency and denounced any statements made by foreign journalists in his support.
Although no official explanation has been given, it is widely believed the arrests are in connection with the protests against recent acid attacks in Isfahan last week. A day after ISNA’s coverage of the demonstration, Iran’s Supreme National Security Council wrote to the agency, warning reporters to not link the acid attacks with retaliations against so-called "bad hejab” — when 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 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.