Fellows in the class of 2023 at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University have chosen Iranian journalists Niloofar Hamedi and Elahe Mohammadi for the 2023 Louis M. Lyons Award for Conscience and Integrity in Journalism.
In making their selection, the Nieman Fellows recognized Hamedi and Mohammadi for their “steadfast commitment to producing courageous journalism about issues in Iran affecting women, including the September 2022 death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini.”
Hamedi and Mohammadi were among the first journalists to cover Amini’s death after she was detained by Iran’s morality police. Hamedi and Mohammedi’s reporting and photos led to their arrest. Six months later, they remain in jail because of their journalism.
Amini’s death has inspired the most widespread protests in Iran in more than a decade. Iranian authorities say they have detained “tens of thousands” since the protests began, including scores of journalists.
Hamedi is a reporter for the Tehran-based Shargh Daily. Mohammadi is a reporter for the daily newspaper Hammihan. They are both known for their courageous coverage of human rights, women’s issues and politics.
The Fellows added: “Hamedi and Mohammadi put their livelihoods and lives on the line, and lost their freedom in the process. They knew the grave risks they might face but remained committed to telling Amini’s story. Journalists in Iran are risking their lives on a daily basis to report on the conditions and oppression there.”
This year’s class of 24 Nieman Fellows from around the world independently nominated and selected Hamedi and Mohammadi because they believe their work “honors the spirit” of the Lyons Award for Conscience and Integrity.
The Nieman Fellows will honor Hamedi and Mohammadi in absentia during a ceremony this spring.
The Nieman Foundation for Journalism extends an open-ended invitation to Hamedi and Mohammedi to personally attend a ceremony at Harvard to accept their award after they are released from prison.
Iran is considered one of the world’s ten worst countries for press freedom, listed 178th out of 180 nations ranked in worldwide assessments of press freedoms. Reporters Without Borders reports that journalists there are “constantly persecuted by means of arbitrary arrests and heavy sentences handed down after grossly unfair trials before revolutionary courts.” The Islamic regime controls much of the media in the country, and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei “often accuses the independent media of being manipulated by foreign forces,” the press freedom group said.
The Nieman class of 1964 established the Louis M. Lyons Award in honor of the Nieman Foundation curator who retired that year after leading the institution for a quarter of a century. Lyons was a forceful advocate for freedom of the press. While he was curator of the Nieman Foundation, he broke new ground by diversifying the class of fellows to include women, minorities and international fellows. The award honors displays of conscience and integrity by individuals, groups or institutions in communications.
The Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard educates leaders in journalism, promotes innovation and elevates the standards of the profession. More than 1,700 journalists from 100 countries have been awarded Nieman Fellowships since 1938. The foundation also publishes Nieman Reports, a website and print magazine covering thought leadership in journalism; Nieman Journalism Lab, a website reporting on the future of news, innovation and best practices in the digital media age; and Nieman Storyboard, a website showcasing exceptional narrative journalism and nonfiction storytelling.