Speaking at the Society of Editors conference, Mr Crone accused Lord Goldsmith of sending out a message which “intimidates, chills and frightens the media”.
When the rape allegations made by a 17-year-old girl against a group of football players first surfaced, the attorney general sent out a notice to editors reminding them of their duty not to publish anything which would create “a serious risk of prejudice”.
Two men were subsequently arrested in connection with the case and named.
However, when a further two men – both Premiership footballers – were arrested on Friday, the attorney general telephoned editors late in the evening and warned them not to name the men.
Mr Crone described the telephone call as “very specific and very late”.
He also lambasted Lord Goldsmith over his stance on reporting of the Soham murder suspects after the News of the World was rapped on the knuckles over a headline concerning Ian Huntley.