Iranian authorities are taking steps to rein in hard-line media that have attacked efforts by Iranian President Hassan Rohani to work with the West and resolve the crisis over his country's nuclear activities.
The apparent campaign taken by the authorities comes as a July 20 deadline for a lasting nuclear deal looms, and could signal attempts by Iranian leaders to reduce pressure on the country's nuclear negotiators as talks reach a critical juncture.
Two senior officials have publicly warned media affiliated with the armed forces not to do things that could undermine Rohani's administration.
Hojatoleslam Ali Saeedi, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei's representative to the powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), said on June 10 that media affiliated with the IRGC have not been careful enough in their coverage. Criticism of the government should be "fair," he added.
The Fars and Tasnim news agencies are among the media said to have links to the IRGC, which also has several publications such as the military news publication "Sobh-e Sadegh."
"Some media are connected to the IRGC, and it is expected that [such media], including the Fars news agency and other news outlets be [precise] in covering the news because sometimes news is being aired without accuracy or consideration," Saeedi was reported as saying
by the semi-official ISNA news agency.
'Inciting The Public'
Saeedi made the comments at a news conference three weeks after the chief of staff of Iran's armed forces, Major General Hassan Firouzabadi, warned media affiliated with the armed forces to reconsider their coverage or face action.
Without naming names, Firouzabadi had said that the managing editors of media outlets should prevent the publication of news and reports that "incite the public" and "weaken" the administration.
"They should reform their methods or they will be dealt with," Firouzabadi was quoted as saying
on May 19.
Hojatoleslam Saeedi expressed support for Firouzabadi's comments and said that "negligence" does not suit the armed forces, which he added should not cause unnecessary damage. He didn't provide any examples of wrongdoings by IRGC affiliated news outlets.
The cleric said media should act so that the government knows they are "sympathetic."
The public warnings come amid reports of more private actions aimed at controlling critics.
Last week, the website "Entekhab" quoted Intelligence Minister Mahmud Alavi as saying that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had personally warned media
about "spreading lies."
"When the supreme leader became aware of the lies, he gave a strong warning to people associated with the media that spread lies," Alavi was quoted as saying in the report.
The intelligence minister reportedly added that, when Khamenei realized that his warning had not had much of an effect, he summoned some media representatives and asked them pointedly, "Why are you weakening the government? Where do you think this government came from?"
Alavi was said to have made the comments following his June 1 meeting with Hossein Shariatmadari, the editor in chief of the ultra-hard-line and influential daily "Kayhan." It is unclear what the two may have discussed.
"Kayhan," along with Fars, Tasnim, and the daily "Vatan-e Emrooz," are among the loudest critics of the way Rohani and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif have handled the sensitive nuclear dossier.
They've accused the Iranian administration of giving in to the West and making too many concessions.
Last week, khabaronline.ir reported that university professor Saeed Zibakalam was summoned to court
after criticizing the administration's foreign policy and the performance of the nuclear negotiating team.
Zibakalam -- -identified by the website as one of the most important critics of the Iranian administration and the nuclear team -- had reportedly expressed his critical views at various meetings held in cities throughout Iran.