Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has accused the United States and Israel of waging a "media war" to discourage Iranians, as the country faces economic hardship following the reimposition of nuclear sanctions by the United States.
"Today, [Iran's] Islamic system faces an all-out economic war that is carefully guided by a war room, but along with this war, there is a major media and propaganda warfare that is often neglected," Khamenei said on September 5.
Addressing the Assembly of Experts, a group of conservative clerics tasked with supervising the supreme leader's work, he said the objective of this media war was to generate "anxiety and pessimism" among Iranians and to "exaggerate economic problems" in their minds.
The United States in May pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal that Iran signed with six world powers, and last month began reimposing sanctions that had been eased as part of the accord.
The U.S. moves have exacerbated economic woes in Iran, with the national currency, the rial, losing more than two-thirds of its value over the past year.
Growing public discontentment over rising prices and unemployment has led to sporadic street protests in Tehran and other cities in recent weeks.
On September 5, Human Rights Watch (HRW) accused Iranian authorities of "ramping up" their crackdown against rights defenders, saying such a policy was "only fueling instability with their silencing of peaceful dissent."
"At a time when everyday life is increasingly difficult for millions of Iranians, rights advocates should be an essential part of solving collective problems, instead of a primary target of the government’s crackdown," Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at HRW, said in a statement.