DUBAI, United Arab Emirates ( Associated Press) — Iranian authorities detained a local journalist at a ceremony for the victims of a building collapse in the southwestern city of Abadan, an international press watchdog reported Wednesday, as the number of fatalities after the disaster rose to 37.
The collapse has sparked a national outpouring of grief and outrage, adding to a series of escalating political and economic crises facing the Islamic Republic. With talks to restore Tehran’s ailing nuclear deal still deadlocked, the Iranian currency plunged to its lowest level against the dollar on Wednesday.
Traditional mourning ceremonies commemorating those killed in last week’s collapse of the tower under construction at the Metropol building in Abadan have repeatedly turned into protests against the authorities, according to images widely shared online and analyzed by The Associated Press. Authorities have responded by dispersing demonstrations and cutting off internet access in an apparent effort to limit information.
Covering the unrest remains highly dangerous in a country that Reporters Without Borders rates as the third worst in the world to be a journalist, behind only North Korea and Eritrea. Foreign-based Farsi-language television channels have reported that security forces have fired tear gas, among other things, to disperse demonstrations in Abadan. But the number of victims and overall arrests remains unclear.
Last Thursday, at one of the ceremonies near the site of the building collapse, security forces detained freelance reporter Arash Ghaleh-Golab, who has written political commentary and editorials for several local publications, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. .
Upon arresting him, security forces beat and kicked him, the New York-based advocacy group reported, adding that it was unclear whether Ghaleh-Golab was covering the event as a journalist or attending as a private citizen. Recently, his work was published on the state website Ensaf News.
Authorities are holding Ghaleh-Golab incommunicado, without charge or the possibility of contacting his family, the committee said Wednesday.