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12 Months after Hamidi's Arrest, Iran’s Association of Sports Journalists Still Has Nothing to Say

The International Sports Press Association (AIPS) has condemned the sentencing of two Iranian journalists to a total of 25 years in prison.

"We cannot accept this condemnation because true journalism is not a crime," the AIPS said in a statement on October 22. "This must be clear and we ask all colleagues to mobilize to defend our freedom of expression."

The 15th branch of the Tehran Revolutionary Court, presided over by Abulqasem Salavati, sentenced journalists Elahe Mohammadi to 12 years in prison and Niloofar Hamedi to 13 years in prison, on October 22. 

Hamedi and Mohammadi are being held at Tehran’s Evin Prison. They are accused of collaborating with the "hostile" government of the United States, "colluding to commit crimes against national security," and engaging in "propaganda activities against the system."

Adding to the severity of the punishment, they were also barred from engaging in journalism, as well as social and political activities for two years.

Before her arrest, Hamedi captured an image of Mahsa Amini’s parents embracing each other at a Tehran hospital while their daughter was in a coma, and shared the photo on Twitter. Mohammadi wrote a report on Mahsa's funeral titled "A Nation in Mourning."

"There is no reason to keep them in jail with these fake accusations,” the AIPS statement added. "As always we ask for the release of Niloofar and Elaheh because they were doing only their honest work," it added. 

The AIPS has issued 12 reports and news articles about the detention of Hamedi and her colleagues Elahe Mohammadi, Aria Jafari, Ehsan Pirbornash and Saeedeh Fathi.

The Association of Journalists and Sports Photographers of Iran (Isja) remained conspicuously silent in response to the preliminary verdict issued for Hamedi, a fellow member of the association, as well as the AIPS statement.

Abdulhamid Ahmadi, Isja president and a member of the board of directors of the AIPS, also failed to make any public statements.

Ahmadi has served as Isja president for more than three decades and also joined the AIPS board without any previous professional experience as a journalist.

His record also includes instances of intimidation directed toward Iranian sports journalists. 

Since the arrest of Hamedi and other journalists, including sports journalists, IranWire has repeatedly called for a response from the AIPS head, Gianni Merlo, on the official silence from Isja and Abdulhamid Ahmadi on the arrests and similar cases. The association has been asked about the progress made in securing the release and determining the status of these journalists.

Merlo's responses have been vague and non-committal. 

He has sometimes offered general statements like, "The Iranian association is actively pursuing this matter," or "We are in discussion with the Iranian authorities.” 

But Merlo has never provided a clear response regarding the actions taken by Abdulhamid Ahmadi to secure the freedom and determine the status of Hamedi.

In one instance, in November 2022, in response to IranWire's inquiry about why the association of sports journalists in Iran had not spoken out against these arrests and repressions, Merlo stated, "There is no silence; we will have an online meeting next week to discuss this."

However, a year has passed, and the outcome of the online meeting has not been disclosed by the association.

Furthermore, the influence of government-affiliated individuals within the AIPS has raised suspicions among journalists in Iran. 

They believe that government elements within these institutions may be obstructing the practical efforts of these international associations to assist Iranian journalists. 

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