French Media Demand Iran Release Arte Journalist Arrested While Covering Protests

French media organisations have demanded that Iran release a journalist who was arrested while covering the protests gripping the country.

Vahid Shamsoddinnezhad, 30, is an Iranian journalist who graduated from the journalism school in Lille (Ecole Superieure de Journalisme; ESJ Lille) in northern France, and who was arrested in Saqqez, in Iranian Kurdistan, on 28th September.

Iranian journalist Vahid Shamsoddinnezhad poses with his family in an undated photo. Shamsoddinnezhad, a France resident covering Iran protests, has been arrested in Saqqez, Iran, on Sept. 28, 2022. (Newsflash)

His current employer, Arte, the German-French public service channel, have now revealed that Shamsoddinnezhad has been detained by the Iranian authorities for over a month, with French media organisations now calling for his release.

His loved ones have also reportedly called for Shamsoddinnezhad to be released after he was arrested following just two telephone interviews and one video report, having arrived in the country just four days earlier, according to French newspaper Le Parisien.

Shamsoddinnezhad was reportedly a Farsi-French interpreter for the Iranian national football team before working as a fixer for French media in Iran. He reportedly fell in love with the French language and decided to study in France to become a journalist.

One of his colleagues from the ESJ, Camille Bouju, 23, told Le Parisien: “He said he was tired of doing the work for other journalists, that he wanted to do the work himself.”

Shamsoddinnezhad arrived in France in 2020 and graduated in international journalism. Camille said: “He was really focused on his project of becoming a correspondent in his country.”

He has been described as “quiet, gentle, and considerate” and is dad to a toddler called Ali, who lives in Paris with his mother, unnamed.

Shamsoddinnezhad returned to Iran to cover the protests for Arte’s newsroom. Arte said that he followed all the rules. Arte said in a statement: “Vahid Shamsoddinnezhad filed, on 24th September, 2022, ARTE’s accreditation letter as well as the details of his French press card with the authorities in Tehran.”

Iranian journalist Vahid Shamsoddinnezhad poses in an undated photo. Shamsoddinnezhad, a France resident covering Iran protests, has been arrested in Saqqez, Iran, on Sept. 28, 2022. (Newsflash)

It is currently unclear where Vahid Shamsoddinnezhad has been detained but Arte said in their statement: “He is now being held in Tehran and under investigation.”

The Syndicat National des Journalistes (SNJ) journalists’ union has called on the French government to obtain Shamsoddinnezhad’s release, saying: “He was just doing his job.”

And press freedom organisation Reporters Sans Frontieres said it was “fully mobilised” to obtain his release.

Iranian forces have been cracking down on waves of civil disorder following the death of Mahsa Amini, 22, from Saqqez, Kurdistan Province, who was on a visit to Tehran when she was arrested by morality police, accused of violating hijab rules on 13th September.

She was allegedly beaten while in custody and spent the following days in a coma in the hospital before succumbing in the ICU on 16th September.

The clinic where she was treated said in a now-deleted social media post that she had been admitted brain-dead.

Alleged medical scans of her skull leaked by hackers showed that she had suffered bone fractures, haemorrhages, and brain oedema.

Independent Iranian media have claimed that Mahsa’s medical records showing her history of heart disease were faked by the Iranian government.

Iranian journalist Vahid Shamsoddinnezhad poses in an undated photo. Shamsoddinnezhad, a France resident covering Iran protests, has been arrested in Saqqez, Iran, on Sept. 28, 2022. (Newsflash)

Numbers differ regarding how many people have been killed since the protests began.

Dissident Iranian activists have said that over 400 people have died as a result of security forces cracking down on the protests gripping the country, while the Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA), a news site run by a collective of Iranian human rights advocates, said that by late October, at least 244 protesters, including 32 children, had been killed.

They added that over 12,500 people have so far been arrested.

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