TEHRAN, Iran (CNN) -- A reporter for Newsweek magazine who was arrested in Tehran has confessed to doing the bidding of Western governments, the semi-official Fars News Agency reported Wednesday.
Maziar Bahari, 42, made his alleged confession at a news conference Tuesday. Because international journalists have been limited in their ability to gather news in Iran, CNN has not been able to confirm the agency report.
Fars reported that the Canadian-Iranian reporter who had worked for the BBC and England's Channel 4 network admitted having filed false reports for Newsweek during the elections -- a charge the magazine rejected.
"He has been reporting for years without any possible hint of bias and beyond reproach," Newsweek Paris Bureau Chief Chris Dickey told CNN. "We think he's one of the best reporters in the business."
He called the report "preposterous."
Dickey said Bahari had not been allowed to speak with a lawyer or with his family since his arrest on June 21.
"The Western media are part of the capitalist machinery and liberal democratic governments of the West," Bahari reportedly said. "When a Western reporter comes to Iran, like a politician or specialist, he will be made to fit into the Western complex. For that person, the interests of the Westerners, who take advantage of every occasion to stand against Iran, are of utmost importance."
The Fars News Agency account adds that most Western news outlets oppose Iran, but that the Ministry of Information scrutinizes reporters' work, minimizing any harm they might do.
Bahari reportedly said Iranian reporters can be tempted by offers of money from Western news organizations to report for them. "Unfortunately, sometimes we fall prey to mistakes, wrong feelings and we become greedy, thus falling into the traps of the foreigners," he said, according to the news agency transcript.
In their alleged attempt to foment revolution in Iran, journalists' efforts began two months before the election, according to the account attributed to Bahari:
"The first step was to propagate the thought of questioning religious authority and maintain that the Islamic Republic of Iran has no popular support and then they said that, under the shadow of such a system, the voting process would be rigged and much hard work went into making this thought a reality in peoples' minds."
Hassiba Hadj-Sahraoui of Amnesty International rejected Bahari's alleged confession, calling it part of the Islamic Republic's effort to intimidate the opposition and blame Western powers for the post-election chaos.
"We know from people we've talked to that people have been forced to make confessions on TV where they are supposed to have acted on instigation of foreign powers," she said.
Indeed, Iran's state-run Press TV has broadcast interviews with people who said they were guilt-ridden protesters who wanted to unburden themselves by confessing that the Western media had made them act as they did.
Bahari is not the only reporter said to have confessed, according to Reporters Without Borders, which last week condemned "a parade of Iranian demonstrators being shown on state-run TV confessing to having protested at the behest of foreign media."
The reporters all used the same words: "I admit that I demonstrated under the influence of the BBC, the radio Voice of America and other foreign media," according to the advocacy group. Video Watch about the dangers of reporting in Iran »
In a posting on his Web site, former President Mahmoud Khatami accused the government of having restricted communications in the country. "The state-owned media outlet shows the same scenes over and over again, in order to provoke people's feelings," he said. "Where was this media outlet when tens of people were killed and hundreds of people beaten?"
He added, "The majority of those arrested are the political activists, journalists and attorneys, who now, unbelievably are pressured, as foreign agents, to falsely confess in television spectacles."
Reporters Without Borders said that 28 journalists -- including about 20 who work for a newspaper owned by opposition presidential candidate Mir Hossein Moussavi -- have been arrested since the election.
"Arresting an entire editorial staff is totally unprecedented," Reporters Without Borders said.
Questioned about the arrest of foreign journalists during demonstrations, the intelligence minister, Mohseni Ejehi, said that "one or two people who came to gather secret information were arrested, but not as journalists. One of them had his equipment confiscated and he is now the subject of an investigation."
Reporters are not the only people at risk. Amnesty International said as many as 1,000 people have disappeared since the June 12 election.
With his purported confession, Bahari is no longer among them.
"We're very happy that they've acknowledged responsibility for holding him," Newsweek's Dickey said. "And we hope very much that they will understand that it is in everybody's interest to release him as soon as possible."
Reformists question legitimacy of Iran's government
TEHRAN, Iran (CNN) -- Three leading Iranian reformists who have rejected the results of last month's election questioned the legitimacy of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's government Wednesday.
This comes as Ahmadinejad is set to take office at the end of the month.
Presidential candidate Mehdi Karrubi wrote a letter in his party's newspaper, saying he would not recognize the government and vowing to "stand by the people and the revolution, until the end of my life."
His statement prompted Iran's government to block publication of the newspaper.
Ahmadinejad's main political rival, Mir Hossein Moussavi, also released a statement Wednesday criticizing the government and its crackdown on the media, which he said has created a "bitter, coup d'etat atmosphere" in Iran.
"We will stand firmly in order to preserve this valuable accomplishment [revolution]," Moussavi said. "Unless we succeed in this, this government will not have legitimacy. The system and the heritage of the Islamic revolution are the fruits of our 200-year-old struggle against oppression."
Iran's former reformist President Mohammad Khatami called on Iranians to keep up the struggle, noting that "all doors are not yet closed."
"We must not lose our social capital this easily," Khatami told progressive Iranian newspaper Tahile Rouz. "I know Moussavi as one of the faithful, original and valuable capitals of our revolution, and considered his return to the political scene as a great chance."
In his statement, Moussavi called for the release of jailed reformists and said he will participate in the creation of a "legal organization" that will release proof of fraud in the June 12 presidential election, and take its case to the courts.
He said the current political issue is a "family dispute" and cautioned against asking for outside help, warning, "We will regret it."
"Many" have asked Moussavi to end his struggle and "close my eyes," but he warned, "If we do not stand our grounds now, then we will have no guarantees that we won't be at this exact point in the future, face to face with the bitter events of this election."
Karrubi called the actions of the government before and after the controversial June 12 voting "the foundation for the annulment of the elections," according to a copy of his letter on the party newspaper's Web site.
"I will not recognize the legitimacy of the government which has resulted from this process," Karrubi said in the letter.
The 72-year-old cleric also said he "will not participate in any of its processes, in any way" and said he is "ready to cooperate with pro-change people and groups."
Karrubi's party, Etemed Melli, said Iran's Ministry of Culture and its attorney general prevented the publication of its newspaper because it carried the letter.
He and Moussavi have questioned the legitimacy of the vote count of the presidential election that gave Ahmadinejad an overwhelming victory. That outrage sparked bloody street protests and a clampdown on international media coverage, as well as access to certain Web sites.
At least 20 protesters were killed in the chaos and more than 1,000 were detained in Tehran, the head of Iranian internal security forces Brig. Esmaeil Ahmadi said, according to Iranian state-run media reports on Wednesday.
The actual death toll may be higher, but restrictions on media have made it difficult to verify.
Human Rights Watch on Wednesday called on Iran to release prominent Iranian reformist Saeed Hajjarian, who has been imprisoned since June 15. He is one of several jailed reformists accused of orchestrating the post-election violence in Iran.
Hajjarian, 55, was severely disabled after he was shot in the head in a 2000 assassination attempt that left him confined to a wheelchair with severe brain and spinal cord injuries.
His wife, Vajiheh Marsoussi, is a physician and has visited Hajjarian in Tehran's Evin prison. She told Human Rights Watch that his medical condition was "deteriorating severely."
Meanwhile, questions surrounded an announcement in government-run Iranian media that Ahmadinejad canceled his trip to Libya on Wednesday.
The trip, which had not been finalized, was canceled because of the president's "huge workload" at home and "other priorities," Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Hassan Qasqavi said, according to the Iranian Students' News Agency.
Four days after the controversial election, Ahmadinejad went to Russia to meet with leaders there, where he was welcomed as the "newly re-elected president of Iran" despite the ongoing street protests. He returned to Iran that same day.
Ahmadinejad will be sworn in before parliament Sunday, July 26, according to Iranian media reports. He will participate in a ceremony officiated by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei a couple of days later, and then his second term will officially begin.
Things are getting uglier. Hooboy.
Also, wow, they really have it out for the BBC, eh.