Iranian journalist and commentator Hassan Fathi is serving an 18-month sentence in Tehran’s Evin Prison for “spreading lies and disrupting public opinion.” Authorities arrested Fathi after he appeared on the BBC in 2018, and he began serving his sentence in May 2020, after losing his final appeal.
Fathi is the former editor of the state-run newspaper Ettelaat, and a former freelance columnist who wrote about the Arab Spring and Iranian international affairs, according to CPJ’s review of archived versions of his writing; his articles are no longer available on Ettelaat’s website.
CPJ was unable to find examples of Fathi’s writing after 2011. That year, authorities detained Fathi for 85 days after he was interviewed by the BBC, according to news reports from the time. He was then released without charge, he told U.K.-based broadcaster Iran International.
Authorities arrested Fathi again on May 26, 2018, after he gave another interview with the BBC’s Persian service, then about the reelection of President Hassan Rouhani, according to Iran International. Fathi told the broadcaster that authorities’ allegations in 2018 contained much of the same information from the 2011 case. The Revolutionary Court of Tehran charged him with “spreading lies and disrupting public opinion,” and then released him on bail on June 2, Fathi said.
BBC Persian is banned in Iran, and authorities have a history of harassing its staff and their families, according to CPJ research.
His case was pending in Iran’s courts until May 2, 2020, when the Tehran Appeals Court rejected his final appeal and ordered him to begin serving his sentence, according to a report by the Human Rights Activists News Agency, a U.S.-based outlet that covers news in Iran.
CPJ could not determine exactly when Fathi was taken to court, convicted, or sentenced.
On May 6, 2020, Fathi began an 18-month prison term in Tehran’s Evin Prison, according to the news agency report.
CPJ was unable to contact Iran’s Ministry of Justice via its website, which was not functioning in late 2020. CPJ emailed Alireza Miryousefi, the head of the media office at Iran’s mission to the United Nations in late September 2020 for comment on the cases of imprisoned Iranian journalists including Fathi, but did not receive a response. CPJ also called the Tehran judiciary office for comment, but no one answered.