Iran has warned the media against the publication of reports concerning the impact of Western sanctions, urging it to cooperate so that "the country is not hurt," local newspapers reported on Wednesday.
"Our country is not in a position to allow the media to publish (any) news or analysis which is not compatible with the regime's national interests," said Mohammad Hosseini, the Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance, whose ministry oversees the Iranian print media and official news websites.
"The situation regarding sanctions and other pressures, especially in economy ... requires more cooperation by the media so the country is not hurt," Hosseini said in comments originally published on the dolat.ir government site.
"Soon we will hold a meeting with the nation's media and economic officials so they are more informed about the current conditions, especially the sanctions, and so that they function by taking into consideration the country's national interest," he said.
The media are closely watched in Iran and the authorities regularly warn against the publication of "negative" information, especially in the economic and social fields, but Hossseini's comments mark the first time a top official has used the impact of Western sanctions to justify media censorship.
The warning follows the slapping by the United States and European Union of an oil embargo against Iran, leading to a substantial decline in exports of crude from which the Islamic republic derives two-thirds of its foreign exchange earnings.
Iran since 2010 has been subject to severe international economic sanctions over its controversial nuclear programme, which Western powers believe is masking an atomic weapons drive despite repeated denials by Tehran.
The sanctions are focused mostly on the banking and oil sectors, on which the economy is heavily reliant. Official propaganda however continually asserts that the sanctions are ineffective and that all is well.
Most of the media refrain from publishing information or credible figures on the impact of sanctions, but sometimes they cite statements from business leaders which give some indication that the embargoes are hurting.