The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday rebutted charges of spying
against one of its reporters that appeared recently in Iranian
The stories called Farnaz Fassihi a secret go-between for the
Obama administration when it sought to make contact with the
Iranian opposition Green Movement in 2009. The movement rose to
prominence and sparked mass demonstrations following Iran's
disputed presidential election that year.
The Journal said the allegations "are completely false,
outlandish and irresponsible."
"Ms. Fassihi is a highly accomplished, longtime Wall Street
Journal senior writer who has reported fairly and accurately from
the region for more than a decade," said Gerard Baker, Editor in
Chief of Dow Jones & Co., publisher of the Journal. "Her
reporting has been a model of courageous, fair and high-impact
journalism. She has repeatedly risked her life and safety from the
front lines of wars and uprisings to document the truth, which make
these scurrilous allegations all the more galling."
The accounts last week in Iranian media cited a Forbes opinion
article from early August that asserted the Obama administration
had relied on a "Wall Street" contact of Sen. Charles Schumer (D.,
N.Y.) to act as a go-between with the Iranian opposition. The
Forbes piece didn't identify the intermediary.
Mr. Schumer's office had no immediate comment.
The author of the Forbes piece, conservative scholar Michael
Ledeen, said in an interview that Ms. Fassihi wasn't the
go-between, whom he had described in the article as a man, and that
the Journal wasn't involved.
"There was no Wall Street Journal connection of any sort, of any
kind," said Mr. Ledeen, who is an occasional contributor to the
Journal's editorial page.
The White House didn't immediately respond to a request for
Reporting in Iran has long been a challenge for Western news
organizations, given the authoritarian nature of the regime and its
competing power centers.
Iran's leadership has been particularly distrustful of outside
journalists who, like Ms. Fassihi, are of Iranian descent. In
particular, Iranian officials worry that dual nationals can talk to
regular Iranians and explain the differences between the people and
the regime, said Hadi Ghaemi, director of the International
Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, a nonprofit research and
The Iranian government didn't respond to requests for comment to
the foreign ministry and the U.N. mission in New York.
Several other journalists of Iranian descent have fled the
country or been jailed in recent years after being accused of
spying. Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian currently is in jail
in Tehran awaiting a verdict on charges that included
"The threat for dual nationals is very enormous" when it comes
to covering Iran, said Omid Memarian, an Iranian journalist who has
written for American publications including Politico and the Daily
The stories accusing Ms. Fassihi first appeared Aug. 12 in three
conservative Iranian newspapers including Kayhan, the hard-line
flagship widely viewed as a mouthpiece for Supreme Leader Ayatollah
A sidebar accompanying the front-page story called Ms. Fassihi a
link between U.S. officials and Iran's "seditious leaders."
Kayhan's article said that because of her dual nationality, Ms.
Fassihi "could come and go covertly and as an ordinary
Several conservative outlets followed with stories the next day,
including a website linked to Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps.
The IRGC article said that Ms. Fassihi "has a long history of
anti-Iranian activities and has written over one hundred articles
against Iran and our national security in The Wall Street
It added: "We conclude that The Wall Street Journal has been
turned into the headquarters of a soft revolution against our
The Journal said that suggestions that the newspaper is part of
a conspiracy against Iran are "transparently false." It added: "The
Journal is an independent news organization with accurate and
timely reporting on critical developments in the region."
Esmail Kousari, a lawmaker and a member of the Iranian
parliament's national security and foreign policy committees,
called on Aug. 13 for the judiciary to open a criminal
investigation into the links between Washington and Iran's
On Saturday the head of the Iranian parliament's national
security committee, Alaadin Boroujerdi, said the Ledeen article
"was documented proof that this person is a prostitute and only
Iranian by name." He said anyone who was involved in this affair
must apologize to the people of Iran.
Tehran's prosecutor's office also carried a story about the
allegations on its website, and said the Journal was the liaison
between the opposition and Washington.
Ms. Fassihi categorically denied the allegations, which she
"I have watched with horror and dismay as these false
allegations against me have circulated in Iranian media. I am a
journalist. My independence and reputation are sacred to me," she
said in a statement.
Ms. Fassihi, 44 years old, joined the Journal in January 2003 as
a Middle East correspondent. She was Baghdad bureau chief from
2003-2006, then went to Beirut, where she was deputy bureau chief
for Middle East and Africa. From 2009, she was a senior writer
based in Beirut. She recently completed a Nieman Fellowship at
Harvard University and is now based in New York.
Relations between the U.S. and Iran are at a critical juncture.
Iran and Western powers, including the U.S., recently sealed a deal
aimed at constraining Iran's nuclear program, a move the Obama
administration hopes will bring the country back into the
Write to John D. McKinnon at email@example.com
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(END) Dow Jones Newswires
August 19, 2015 12:25 ET (16:25 GMT)
Copyright (c) 2015 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.