Once again the bloodshed in Syria in August 2012 marked the media and cultural scene in the four countries that the SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom monitors: Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Palestine. Seven Syrian photographers, activists, journalists and artists were killed in Aleppo and Damascus; a filmmaker was also murdered and a journalist miraculously escaped death, after being hit by a bullet in the back. Also, nine journalists were arrested or kidnapped.
In Lebanon, in addition to beating up journalists, banning them from filming, storming media institutions and arresting employees, a new form of violation took place: correspondents and photojournalists were victims of sniper shots; two of them were injured. Also in August, Turkish authorities arrested New TV correspondent Youmna Fawaz, while returning from a mission in Syria; she was released three days later.
Below is a detailed summary of the violations compiled by the SKeyes Center in all four countries.
In Lebanon, the violations carried out against correspondents and photojournalists were numerous this month. The most dangerous one was undeniably the shots fired at the Sky News live broadcasting engineer, Hussein Nakhle, who was injured in the head, and Canadian journalist Maria Moore suffered burns to her leg, after snipers opened fire on the “Abu Ali” square, where they and other journalists were covering the events in Tripoli (08/24).
Associated Press correspondent, Ghassan Sweidan, was assaulted and his camera was broken in Tripoli’s Souk Al-Kameh (08/26) and a group of unknown people attacked the MTV crew members on Syria Street, also in Tripoli (08/27). Dozens of masked gunmen broke into the Al-Yasariya TV headquarters in Hadeth in suburban Beirut and held three of the employees for two hours (08/15). Abbas Sabbagh, an An-Nahar and Al-Mayadin correspondent, was insulted by protesters in front of the Qatar embassy in Beirut (08/10) and journalist Joseph Abu Fadel was injured in the hand while young men were trying to stop his car on the Masnaa international road, on his way back from Syria (08/16). Also, number of protesters expressing their solidarity with the missing people in Syria attacked the vehicles used by LBC, OTV, MTV and New TV channels on the airport road, then insulted and assaulted journalists (08/15). TV stations were also forced to put an end to the live broadcasting of a meeting held by Al-Mokdad clan members in the Rweiss neighborhood of Beirut’s southern suburbs, following a quarrel between family members, which quickly turned into a fight with the journalists (08/16). Theater technicians were injured following a quarrel with the Mukhtar of the Kfardebian village in Kisrwan (08/03) and the military intelligence prevented a group of amateur photographers from taking pictures in Ain El-Mreisseh, under the pretext that they did not have an authorization delivered by the governor of Beirut (08/28).
The General Security confiscated militant Wissam Tarif’s passport and prevented him from traveling to Turkey (08/06); it also threatened to sue journalist Michel Hajji Georgiou after he published an article titled “Abbas Ibrahim following the footsteps of Jamil Sayed?” (08/08).
Graffiti artist Semaan Khawam was threatened on Facebook, after expressing his support to the Syrian revolution (08/16), supporters of the Syrian government allegedly hacked Al-Mayadin’s Twitter account (08/23) and Facebook deactivated all pages related to Hezbollah and its media outlets (08/12).
This month, Wissam Alaeddine, one of the militiamen who carried out the attack against the New TV building in June, was released on bail (08/29) and the Special Tribunal for Lebanon asked the channel to stop publishing interviews with people in direct connection with the Tribunal (08/08).
In Syria, the violations against freedom of expression continued and the bloodshed was particularly violent in August. Seven journalists were killed in Aleppo and Damascus: Mohammad Al-Saïd, Haitham Hamsho (08/09), Ali Abbas (08/11), Bara’ Al-Bouchi (08/11), Japanese Mika Yamamato (08/20), Missaab Mohammad Saïd Al-Odallah (08/22), and Mahmoud Al-Basha (08/31). Filmmaker Bassam Mohieddine Hussein was murdered near his house (08/05) and journalist Karim Shibani miraculously escaped death after being hit by a bullet in the back (08/04).
Threats and abductions by the regime and its opponents were unprecedented in scale; nine journalists were kidnapped this month: Ahmad Thabet Mohsen (08/01), Mohammad Ali Hussein (08/04), Talal Janbakli (08/04), Yara Saleh, Abdallah Tabra, Hussam Imad (08/10), American Austin Tice (08/11), Palestinian Bashar Fahmi Al-Qadoumi, and his Turkish photographer Cuneyt Unal (08/20). The Syrian regime also arrested artist Kifah Ali Dib (08/05), artist Zaki Kordelo (08/11), journalist Malek Abu Al-Kheir (08/18), filmmaker Orwa Al-Nyrabia (08/23), and actor Mohammad Omar Osso (08/24).
In Jordan, the violations on the media and cultural scene were less frequent than the previous months. The decision to block access to pornographic websites sparked a wave of controversy among activists and intellectuals (08/13) and the government approved the amendments to the Press and Publications Law that also affects websites (08/22); this led dozens of persons to protest in front of the Journalists Syndicate’s headquarters and the Parliament building (08/23). Jordanian websites answered 7oryanet’s call to participate in an “electronic blackout” day (08/29), during which Jordanian media professionals protested against the amendments to the Press and Publications Law. The Al-Arab Al-Yawm editor-in-chief appeared before the Attorney General, following an article published in the daily (08/01) and inhabitants of Jabal Al-Qalaa protested against the organization of a festival during Ramadan (08/12).
In the Gaza Strip, the Hamas naval police confiscated producer Abdul-Rahman Al-Hamran’s photographic equipment, while he was shooting his movie at the Khan Younes beach, under the pretext that it is a restricted security zone (08/28). Also, the Hamas security banned an Iftar organized by the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate, divided between the West Bank and Gaza (08/16) and the Syndicate’s President in Gaza filed a complaint against a pro-Fatah journalists’ bureau for accusing him of working with the General Security (08/03). Also, unknown men broke into the “Fadel Shanaa Foundation for Information, Training and Development”, seized equipment and asked for money to give it back (08/09).
In the West Bank, Israeli violations against Palestinian journalists continued in August 2012. Israeli soldiers attacked photographers and correspondents, who were covering the weekly protest of Kfar Kadoum, with truncheons and rifle butts; photographers Nidal Ashtieh from the Chinese press agency Xinhua, Jaafar Ashtieh from AFP, Fares Fares from the RamSat agency, Odaï Qadoumi from Beit Silem, and Nouh Al-Qadumi from Al-Salam TV were injured (08/17). Settlers opened fire on Nizar Al-Samoudi, a correspondent for Voice of Palestine TV and radio (08/08) and the Israeli military court extended the administrative detention of Shihab agency correspondent, Amer Abou Arfah, for a period of six months, without any legal justification (08/28).
Internally, the Falasteen Al-Yawm channel dismissed, Mohammad Abu Hamdieh, who hosted the Qalb Al-Hadas talk-show, after MP Aziz Al-Doueik threatened to sue him if their interview was aired (08/04). The Palestinian Intelligence Services in Hebron confiscated the photographic equipment of Al-Aqsa TV cameraman, Asiad Amarneh (08/14) and an unknown person posted death threats on George Kanawati’s Facebook page (08/28); he is the director of Radio Bethlehem 2000.
In the 1948 Territories, Israeli violations on the media and cultural scene took a provocative turn in August 2012. Racial discrimination and bullying were unprecedented in scale: the Israeli police banned journalist Abdel-Latif Gheith from traveling for a period of six months (08/02) and photographer Amjad Arfah was summoned for hampering the police work two years ago (08/16). Israel's military prosecutor exonerated Israeli soldiers in the death of Rachel Corrie, who was killed by an Israeli bulldozer in March 2003 (08/28).
The Tel Aviv municipality refused to insert the Arabic language in its logo (08/06) and a protest campaign was launched against discriminatory provisions against Arab institutions in Israel’s cultural support policies (08/07). A petition was also submitted for the cancellation of the wine festival inside the Grand Mosque of Beersheba (08/13) and the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel asked the Red Hot Chili Peppers to cancel their concert in Tel Aviv (08/01).