Iranian security forces stand guard in front of the British embassy in the capital Tehran in January 2020. On May 26, 2022, freelance reporter Arash Ghaleh-Golab was detained by security officers and held without charge. (Atta Kenare/AFP)

Iranian freelance journalist Arash Ghaleh-Golab detained during mourning ceremony

Washington, D.C., June 1, 2022 — Iranian authorities should immediately and unconditionally release freelance reporter Arash Ghaleh-Golab, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Wednesday.

On May 26, Ghaleh-Golab was at a traditional mourning ceremony near the Metropol building, which recently collapsed, killing 31 people, in Abadan city in the southwestern Khuzestan province, when he was arrested by security forces, according to news reports and a source familiar with the case who spoke to CPJ on the condition of anonymity due to fear of reprisal. During his arrest, officers hit the journalist with their fists and kicked him, according to the source familiar with the case.

As of Wednesday, June 1, Ghaleh-Golab was still detained without charge at an undisclosed location and has not been allowed to contact his family, according to the source familiar with the case. CPJ could not determine whether Ghaleh-Golab attended the ceremony as a journalist or a private citizen.

“Iranian authorities must understand that they can’t hide the country’s difficult realities and problems by silencing and jailing journalists,” said Justin Shilad, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa senior researcher, in New York. “The authorities must free journalist Arash Ghaleh-Golab immediately and unconditionally and cease the practice of arbitrarily locking up members of the press.” 

Ghaleh-Golab writes political commentary and op-eds for various publications, according to the source familiar with the case. Most recently, his work was published by the state-run news website EnsafNews.

The political atmosphere in Abadan has been tense for months as the large Arab and Sunni communities in Khuzestan have been experiencing more extreme food and water shortages than other regions of Iran, according to a report by the U.S. Congress-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. The collapse of the Metropol set off a new wave of anti-government demonstrations, which security forces suppressed by firing shots in the air, using tear gas, and clubbing demonstrators, according to multiple news reports.

In 2016, Ghaleh-Golab was arrested on anti-state charges for his writings, according to the exile-run news website IranWire. CPJ emailed the Iranian mission to the United Nations in New York but did not receive a response.