In her 23-year-long career, Yalda Moaiery has traversed some of the world's most perilous territories, capturing powerful images of conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq and reporting on natural disasters from Pakistan to Somalia. However, it was her passion for documenting protests in her homeland, Iran, that led her down a treacherous path.
In September 2022, while covering demonstrations in Iran, Moaiery found herself on the wrong side of the authorities. She was arrested, brutally beaten, and sent to prison.
After enduring a harrowing period behind bars, the 41-year-old journalist was granted bail in December. Yet, her struggle was far from over; she now awaits a summons to commence a six-year prison sentence on anti-state charges. Following her release, she faces a two-year ban on using social media and leaving the country, along with a three-year prohibition on practising journalism.
Journalist Yalda Moaiery Recognised for Bravery
Despite these threats and the oppressive environment for journalists in Iran, Moaiery has remained steadfast in her commitment to her craft. Her unwavering courage and persistence have garnered her the prestigious International Women's Media Foundation (IWMF) Wallis Annenberg Justice for Women Journalists Award of this year.
The IWMF established the award in 2021 to honour incarcerated women journalists who have displayed exceptional bravery while facing extreme danger.
Elisa Lees Muñoz, the executive director of the IWMF, spoke highly of Moaiery's unwavering resolve, stating to VOA, "She is the epitome of an incredibly courageous woman journalist. And how ironic that it's in her own country, covering her community, that she is not only thrown in jail but also beaten and reporting on what is happening to her while she is being driven off to prison."
Moaiery is unfortunately not alone in her plight. Media rights groups reveal that since last September, at least 95 journalists have been imprisoned in Iran, with many of them detained while reporting on the protests that erupted after the tragic death of Mahsa Amini, a young Kurdish woman in police custody.
Of these detained journalists, 24 are women, solidifying Iran's position as the world's leading jailer of journalists, particularly female journalists.
While the media coverage of the protest movement may have diminished in recent months, the arrests and trials of journalists continue unabated.
Just this week, Niloofar Hamedi and Elahe Mohammadi, who were among the first arrested for covering Amini's case, faced a second trial in a Tehran court after spending over 300 days behind bars.
These journalists, like Moaiery, face multiple challenges and uncertainties, with some being released on bail but banned from working in the media while they await sentencing. This creates financial hardships, forcing them to rely on the support of friends and family.
Iran's use of harsh treatment and imprisonment serves as a chilling message to all those critical of the regime. Yeganeh Rezaian, a senior researcher at the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), underscores this tactic, explaining to VOA, "It's meant to send an alarm to everyone else that this is going to be your destiny if you keep doing what you're doing or if you do similar things like your other colleagues."
However, journalists like Moaiery remain undeterred. Rezaian, who knows Moaiery personally, praises her fearlessness and determination. Moaiery's work extends beyond war zones; she has also documented the struggles of young women in Iran regarding mandatory hijab and has been at the forefront of reporting on nationwide protests.
Rezaian hopes that Moaiery's well-deserved recognition will draw attention to the plight of other journalists and the countless women facing challenges under Iran's regime.
Moaiery echoes this sentiment, emphasising, "Journalists are threatened and arrested every moment, and two of our colleagues are still in prison for more than 300 days. Apart from the problems and issues of a journalism job, as women, every day we are facing the violation of civil rights and the risk of being arrested for not wearing a voluntary hijab."
For Moaiery and her fellow Iranian women, receiving such an award signifies that their voices are heard, providing a glimmer of hope in the face of adversity. As these brave journalists continue to defy the odds and share untold stories, their unwavering spirit serves as a beacon of inspiration to the world.
Suggested Reading: Meet Economist Jayati Ghosh, Recipient Of 2023 Galbraith Award