In this image from surveillance video aired by Iranian state television, women pull 16-year-old Armita Geravand from a train car on the Tehran Metro in Tehran on October 1. On October 29, journalist Negar Ostad Agha was arrested while covering Geravand's funeral. (Photo: AP/Iranian state television)

Iranian journalist Negar Ostad Agha detained reporting on girl’s funeral

Washington, D.C., November 6, 2023—Iranian authorities must immediately release female journalist Negar Ostad Agha and cease jailing members of the press for reporting the news, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Monday. 

On October 29, Ostad Agha, a journalist and senior editor at Etemad Online, was arrested in a cemetery in Iran’s capital, Tehran, while covering the funeral of 16-year-old Armita Geravand, according to news reports.

Geravand died after falling into a coma while in the Tehran Metro on October 1. Her head was uncovered, in violation of the mandatory Islamic dress code. Iran has denied that she was injured in a confrontation with the morality police.

Geravand died on October 28, weeks after the one-year anniversary of the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in the custody of the morality police, which sparked Iran’s biggest nationwide protests in years.

“In their desperate efforts to silence their critics, Iranian authorities have now imprisoned a female journalist, Negar Ostad Agha, while reporting on the funeral of a teenage girl,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour. “Authorities must realize that they cannot hide Iran’s difficult realities by jailing journalists and independent voices.”

As of Monday, authorities had not disclosed the reason for Ostad Agha’s detention or the potential charges against her.

Ostad Agha was detained in Gharchak Prison, a women’s facility in Varamin, some 50 kilometers (31 miles) southeast of Tehran, those sources said.

Several mourners were arrested at Geravand’s funeral, which had a heavy security presence, according to news reports. The BBC’s Persian Service reported that seven other Iranian journalists were summoned to Tehran’s Media Court after covering the funeral.

Iran ranked as the world’s worst jailer of journalists when CPJ conducted its most recent worldwide census of imprisoned journalists on December 1, 2022.

Overall, Iranian authorities detained at least 95 journalists in the wake of nationwide protests in September 2022. Many have been released on bail while awaiting trial or summonses to serve multi-year sentences.

CPJ emailed Iran’s mission to the United Nations in New York requesting comment on Ostad Agha’s arrest and imprisonment but did not receive a reply.