In a swipe at the hardliners who have railed against a gradual rapprochement with the West, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Sunday called for media in his country to be more moderate and rational in their coverage of the "post-sanctions era."
Speaking in Tehran at the inauguration of the 21st Tehran Press and News Agencies Exhibition, Rouhani, who is considered a moderate figure in Iranian politics, said it is the responsibility of the press to give people "trust and hope," according to comments on his official website.
"Instilling hope to the society in the post-sanctions era is the duty of all media," he said.
"As we need media, we also need a clear law for press and media. Thus, as far as the law is clear and unambiguous, no one can stick to a part of it and play with or misuse people's rights of freedom of press in the society," he said.
The president's office characterized his remarks as calling on the media to move "away from any radicalism and ... be an epitome of moderation and rationality."
In his reporting on Rouhani's speech, Thomas Erdbrink, the New York Times' Tehran correspondent, said the president had tacitly suggested some media outlets are connected to the arrests of five activists and journalists accused of being puppets of the West and CIA.
The arrests reportedly include a man who holds dual Iranian-American citizenship.
Rouhani accused some media outlets of acting as "undercover police” and "even [telling] their audience who is going to be arrested tomorrow," Erdbrink reported.
Although he supported Rouhani negotiating a nuclear deal in exchange for the lifting of crippling economic sanctions, Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has made a string of recent comments against Western influence in Iran.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has called for the release of the reporters detained in the wake of the Ayatollah's comments.
"Iran's jails are already packed with journalists who are facing spurious charges for the simple act of voicing criticism or independent views," Sherif Mansour, the CPJ's Middle East and North Africa program coordinator, said in a statement on Wednesday.