The bloodbath in Syria overshadowed all the violations carried out against journalists, writers, intellectuals, artists, bloggers and human rights activists in March 2012, in Lebanon, Jordan and Palestine, the three other countries that the SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom monitors.
The Syrian army killed Syrian photographer and activist Juan Al-Kutneh after having tortured him. Also, British-Algerian journalist Walid Blidi and his French-Algerian colleague Nassim Terreri were killed in the city of Darkoush near Idleb, and activist Assaad Helal died in a car bomb attack. A sniper shot and killed the former president of Syrian Women’s Union, Dalal Farran, in front of her house in the Abi Al-Fida suburb of Hama. The Israeli attacks were also particulary violent: in Bab Al-Amoud, the Israeli police trampled on journalists with horses, beat them up and attacked them with teargas and rubber-coated bullets. Below is a detailed summary of the violations compiled by the SKeyes Center in all four countries.
In Lebanon, the violations against media professionals continued in March 2012. Journalist Ali Atwi received threats over the phone, for expressing his opposition to death penalty (03/02) and filmmaker Omar Abhis for publishing a statement on his Facebook page related to the dismissal of employees working for the Falasteen Al-Yaoum channel (03/20). Photographers and correspondents were prevented from operating freely during the March 14 annual convention at the BIEL center (03/14) and the United Nations condemned the trial of human rights activist Ali Khalil, considering it a “violation of human rights”.
The Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation (LBC) satellite channel separated definitely from the terrestrial channel and resumed broadcast from Egypt (03/14); it also terminated the employment contracts of 51 employees (03/22). The Al-Mustaqbal daily dismissed many employees and offered them 13-month compensation per work year (03/13). Moreover, Future TV and Future News TV merged and will also dismiss employees.
The Anonymous – Lebanon group said it hacked four government websites, in a message displayed on its Facebook page. Hacktivists defaced the websites of the Ministry of Economy, the Department of Emigrants, the Municipality of Beirut and the General Security (03/01). The Ministry of Labor website was also hacked (03/08), as well as that of the Al-Kifah Al-Arabi daily (03/19) and the four Facebook pages of Lebanese journalist and human rights activist Rwaida Mroueh (03/24).
Judicially, Minister Nicolas Fattoush filed a lawsuit against MTV’s correspondent Joyce Akiki over a report she did on the Jeita Grotto and alleged malpractice accusations against the Minister, but Akiki refused to show up at the Beirut Judicial Department (03/04), considering that only the Publications Court is allowed to summon journalists. Akiki and her colleague Joe Maalouf subsequently received a summons to appear before the Attorney General of Beirut on April 5, because of what Joyce Akiki said during the show Anta Horr (You are free) hosted by Maalouf. The Parliamentary Committee for Information and Communication, chaired by MP Hassan Fadlallah, recommended the government to monitor the abuses of several TV programs (03/06) – especially those related to sex education – and the Minister of Information Walid Daouk, submitted a draft law to the government, aiming at regulating electronic media. While Daouk said on March 24 that the law was opt-in and unbinding for websites, several civil society organizations expressed reservations concerning the bill, fearing it would restrict freedom of expression.
Moreover, the Publications Court decided to fine the Al-Shiraa magazine, in the lawsuit filed against it by the Minister of Energy and Wate, Gebran Bassil (03/09); the Court also imposed a fine on the Al-Mustaqbal daily, in the lawsuit filed by General Jamil Al-Sayed (03/15). Journalist Maroun Nassif and the Free Patriotic Movement website were accused of slander and defamation against the Grand Mufti of Mount Lebanon (03/12) and the State Council condemned the Lebanese government to pay two billion LBP to Al-Jadeed (New TV) for non-issuance of a first category broadcasting license (03/07).
On the other hand, team members of the “Ma fi metlo” satirical, broadcasted on MTV, filed a complaint to the anti-cybercrime office, after receiving death threats (03/16). Also, Independence Movement leader Michel Moawad, filed a lawsuit before the Publications Court against the Al-Akhbar newspaper (03/22). The military court postponed the trial of Sheikh Hassan Msheimesh, who wrote the book Hiwarat Sakhina (Hot Dialogues) and launched the Difaf (Shores) magazine, until May 11 (03/16). Msheimesh is accused of intelligence with Israel. In an unprecedented move, the Beirut Hotel director, Danielle Arbid, filed a lawsuit against the Lebanese State for censorship (03/22).
In light of recent events in Syria, French journalists Edith Bouvier and William Daniels arrived in Beirut, after having been evacuated from the Baba Amr region in Homs (03/02). Journalist May Chidiac warned against the potential role of Lebanese allies of the Syrian regime in intimidating the journalists who are leaving Syria to come to Lebanon (03/03).
In Syria, the bloodbath continued during the month of March 2012 with the systematic repression of journalists and activists. The Syrian army killed photographer and human rights activist Juan Al-Kutneh after having tortured him (03/16). Also, British-Algerian journalist Walid Blidi and his French-Algerian colleague Nassim Terreri were killed in the city of Darkoush near Idleb (03/26), and activist Assaad Helal died in a car bomb attack. A sniper shot and killed the former president of Syrian Women’s Union, Dalal Farran, in front of her house in the Abi Al-Fida suburb of Hama (03/05).
Turkish journalist Adem Özköse and his fellow photographer Hamit Coşkun disappeared in the city of Idleb (03/09) and the arbitrary arrests of journalists continued: the Syrian security forces arrested journalists Itab Labbad (03/07) and Rudy Othman (03/15), media activists Nora Al-Jizawi and Ali Mahmoud Othman (03/28), bloggers Rafa Al-Masri (03/03), Mohammad Abu Hajar (03/14) and Jihad Jamal (03/07) as well as human rights activists Omar Kandakji (03/08), Jamal Al-Omar (03/14) and Yara Chammas (03/07). Activists Bahra Hijazi and Ons Abdel-Salam were released after 52 days of detention and activist Shadi Yazbek after 25 days of detention (03/12). Syrian authorities banned the usage of the WhatsApp service inside the country (03/05).
In Jordan, many violations were carried out against journalists and bloggers during the month of March 2012. The Al-Ra’i daily prohibited the publication of seven articles written by Ahmad Hassan Al-Zaabi (03/25) and number of journalists protested against the interference of the Minister of State for Media and Communication, Rakan Al-Majali, in the press (03/07).
While the Jordan Anti-Corruption Commission head called for caution in publishing news (03/22), a new draft law related to electronic media was published in the press (03/19) and unknown persons tried to hack the Khaberni website. (11/03). Jordanian authorities canceled the “Drawings of the children of freedom” exhibition, commemorating the first anniversary of the Syrian revolution (03/10).
Jordanian women journalists were named editors in chief of the newspapers for which they work for one day, on the occasion of the International Women’s Day (03/08). Jordanian journalist Rania Al-Jaabari resigned from the Al-Arab Al-Yawm daily (03/24) and blogger Inas Moussallem expressed her intention of bringing to justice each and every person who caused her harm, whether working for the General Security or a media outlet (03/06).
Moreover, the committee in charge of defending the former Director of the Jordanian Intelligence Services Mohammad Al-Dhahabi expressed its intention of arraigning Al-Ra’i and Al-Dustour newspapers (03/18), after they accused Al-Dhahabi of bribing more than fifty journalists. The Jordanian Parliament refused to submit to voting the motion of censure against Minister Al-Majali (03/12).
In the Gaza Strip, the violations on the media and cultural scene were numerous during the month of March 2012. The Mix Maan correspondent, Moumen Al-Sharafi was hit by Israeli shrapnel next to his house; his wife, journalist Iftikhar Halawi, was also injured.
The security services of the Hamas deposed government resorted again to arbitrary arrests, threats and physical aggressions: they beat up journalists who were covering a wedding ceremony and arrested one of them (03/08). Also, activists and bloggers were summoned for “inciting to protests in front of the Energy Authority headquarters” (03/22). Photographer Mahmud Al-Zaanun was arrested after being accused of filming for “suspicious parties in Ramallah” (03/26) and members of the Al-Qassam forces arrested the Wafa agency correspondent, Sami Abu Salem, the Sveriges Radio correspondent, Swedish journalist Cecilia Oden and a third journalist, while they were preparing a documentary film (03/28). Also, the camera of a BBC Arabic crew was confiscated while they were filming a report about the electricity crisis (03/21).
The political division between the Fatah and Hamas movements reached the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate (PJS). The agreement that should have been concluded at the end of February between the Syndicate and the Fatah media office in the West Bank on the one hand, and journalists affiliated with the Hamas movement in Gaza on the other fell apart. The elections were held separately on March 9 and 10 in the West Bank and on March 18 in Gaza. The PJS is now divided into two syndicates. Few days after the election in Gaza, the West Bank syndicate decided to permanently dismiss all journalists partaking to the Gaza syndicate, under the pretext of “protecting the integrity of the media sector”. These journalists are: Wissam Ibrahim Afifeh, Khaled Saber Sadek, Yasser Hassan Abu Hayn, Amal Bassam Al-Hajjar, Umayya Fayez Geha, Toufic Hassan Salim, Youssef Ahmad Abu Kouaik and Imad Toufic Ifanah. Also, the West Bank syndicate decided to deprive journalists Ayman Dallul and Samir Abu Mohsen of their membership card.
In the West Bank, the Israeli forces continued to attack Palestinian journalists. They beat Pal Media photographer, Samer Hamad (03/09) and a photographer working for Agence France-Presse (03/16) while they were covering a protest south of Bethlehem. The Israeli forces also attacked number of journalists, such as Al-Quds satellite channel correspondent, Linda Shalash, and the photographer Rami Jahajiha, with teargas: they suffered acute asphyxiation while covering a sit-in in solidarity with prisoner Hana Al-Shalabi in front of the Ofer prison (03/15). The Falasteen TV photographer, Nagib Charawneh, was also injured during the weekly protest in Bilin (03/30). The Israeli court of Ofer condemned the “Association for justice and freedom” photographer, Hamza Bernat, to 18 months of prison (03/06) and renewed the administrative detention of the coordinator of the Palestinian cultural center Tanweer, Youssef Abdel Haq for a period of two months (03/30).
Internally, freedom of expression declined in the West Bank, particularly because of the numerous arrests: journalist Youssef Al-Shayeb was arrested after publishing a report entitled “The Palestinian diplomatic mission in France” in the Jordanian daily Al-Ghad, accusing the mission of corruption (03/22). The court rejected the lawyer’s request to release Al-Shayeb on bail three times in a row. Also, the Attorney General condemned journalist Ismat Abdel-Khalek to 15 days of prison for insults (03/28). The Palestinian Intelligence Service summoned journalist Asiad Amarneh for five hours (03/07) and journalist Shahd Bani-Odeh for publishing a caricature criticizing President Mahmoud Abbas on her Facebook page (03/17).
In the 1948 Territories, the violations perpetrated against journalists, intellectuals and human rights activists continued during the month of March 2012. In Bab Al-Amoud, the Israeli police trampled on journalists with horses, beat them up and attacked them with teargas and rubber-coated bullets; journalist Diala Jouaihan and photographers Mahfuz Abu Turk and Afif Amira were injured (03/30). A violent campaign was launched against journalist Zouhair Andraos, after he published an article in which he criticized a fatwa by Sheikh Youssef Al-Qaradawi (03/02). Also, supporters of the Syrian regime strongly attacked the singer Rim Al-Banna (03/05) and Israeli authorities launched a campaign aiming at dismissing Kholoud Badawi, a researcher at the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (03/10). Israeli authorities banned Sheikh Najeh Bakirat, the director of manuscripts and heritage at the Al-Aqsa mosque, from giving interviews to media outlets until the end of the year (03/11).
The trial of the Wadi Hilweh Information Center director, Jawad Siam, started 45 days after the lawsuit was filed against him (03/04).
A new study conducted by an Israeli center showed the Israeli authorities’ blatant discriminatory practices against Arab media (03/27). A United Nations commission urged Israel to put an end to racial discrimination against Palestinians (03/13). The Knesset seems nonetheless determined to implement a new racist law, considering Zionism as a positive action in favor of Israel (03/07). Finally, a campaign aiming at removing an Israeli exhibition stand from the Beersheba mosque and establishing an Islamic culture museum was launched (03/06).