The bloodshed in Syria overshadowed all other violations carried out against journalists, artists, bloggers and human rights activists, in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Palestine, the four countries that the SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom monitors, in May and June 2012. Several Syrian journalists were killed in May: Abdel Ghani Kaakeh in Aleppo, Ammar Muhammad Souheil Zadeh, Ahmad Al-Ashlak and Laurence Fehmi in Homs; filmmakers Bassel Shehadeh and Ahmad Al-Assam were also killed in Homs. The Syrian authorities reportedly sentenced to death activist Mohammad Al-Hariri after torturing him and breaking his backbone. In June, six more Syrian journalists were killed: Khaled Al-Bikr in Al-Qusair, Ahmad Hamada in Homs, Samer Khalil Al-Satleh in Douma and the State satellite TV Al-Ikhbariya journalists Sami Abou Amin, Zeid Kohl and Mohammad Shammah, during an attack carried out against the channel’s headquarter.
Masked gunmen burned tires and opened fire outside Lebanon’s New TV building, after trying to storm the building. Physical attacks against journalists also resumed in Lebanon, Gaza and the West Bank.
Below is a detailed summary of the violations compiled by the SKeyes Center in all four countries.
In Lebanon, several journalists were physically assaulted in May. Journalist Souheib Ayoub was attacked (05/15), as well as the Russia Today and the New TV crews in the north, and photographer Omar Khaddaj was injured in both his head and face (05/20). Future TV cameraman Naji Mazboudi was also beaten and insulted in the Tariq Al-Jadided neighborhood (05/21). The security officers of the U.S. delegation accompanying Assistant Secretary of State Jeffrey Feltman hampered the work of photographers, who were taking pictures of Feltman’s meeting with MP Walid Joumblatt, preventing photographer Mohammad Azakir from filming (05/03). Ziad Homsi sent threat letters to Al-Akhbar journalist Afif Diab, following an article Diab wrote; Homsi was detained in Roumieh for cooperating with Israel (05/28). Journalist Mustapha Mustapha Geha was forced to seek refuge in Sweden, after escaping an assassination attempt (05/11).
In terms of censorship, the movie Tannoura Maxi was banned following the pressure exerted by the Lebanese Catholic Information Center on the General Security (05/20). After several scenes were modified or censored, the movie was put back in theaters. The General Security also censored a scene from the comedy To Baalbek, at the request of the Internal Security Forces (05/21). The military intelligence summoned several times a group of youngsters from the city of Jezzine, questioning them about their Facebook accounts. The Facebook page of TV host Mona Abou Hamzeh was hacked (05/05), and a group of unknown people also threatened to hack the database of the Elnashra website (05/15) and destroy it.
The dismissal of people working in media institutions continued: MTV laid off 5 journalists and a number of technicians for “financial reasons” (05/04 and 05/15). Another 21 employees of the AWI Group (which includes the Al-Balad daily, Layalina magazine, Al-Wassit classified ads paper and the Integra company), staged a sit-in in Sin El-Fil, protestingt the non-payment of severance allowance and withheld salaries (05/18).
The month of June was undeniably marked by the attack carried out against New TV’s headquarters; five masked gunmen opened fire on the building (06/25) and tried to set it on fire. Journalist Afif Diab was threatened and beaten at Chtaura (06/04), following the release of Ziad Homsi, who was accused of cooperating with Israel. A Syrian Social Nationalist Party supporter attacked Ghadi Francis, a correspondent for New TV as well as journalist Firas Al-Shoufi in Dhour Choueir (06/10); Al-Manar photographer, Khodor Markiz, was attacked while filming protesters burning tires on the road leading to the airport (06/18). Also, Al-Manar correspondent, Dia’ Abu Taam, was assaulted by security forces in Zouk Mosbeh (06/28), next to MP Sethrida Geagea’s house. Journalist Luna Safwan was threatened on her Facebook page, after condemning the attack carried out against her colleague Ghadi Francis (06/13); moreover, Télé Liban cameraman, Mohammad Rahmeh was threatened, beaten and his camera confiscated in the Bechara El-Khoury neighborhood, while covering a sit-in in solidarity with one of the persons who attacked the New TV headquarters (06/25). Journalist Abdul Rahman Salaheddine was attacked on the road leading to the airport (06/04) and Rasha Al-Amin, a first-year journalism student, was questioned and threatened, following an article she wrote on the political control exerted by some political parties over the Lebanese University’s journalism school (06/14).
Three websites were hacked: Youkal Net (06/14), Pal Monitor (06/15) and Al-Jadeed (06/25). The Lebanese Order of Physicians put an end to the TV show “The Doctors”, in accordance with the decision of regulating physicians’ appearance on television (06/14) and the Campaign for the Boycott of Israel called for the boycott of the musical Notre-Dame de Paris, because of the participation of French singer Julie Zenatti, who had previously expressed sung a song written by a Zionist Israeli poet (06/21).
The military court acquitted bloggers and human rights activist, Khodor Salameh and Ali Fakhri (06/05) while unnamed members of the Syrian army were indicted for the murder of New TV cameraman Ali Shaaban and the shooting on of his colleagues in Wadi Khaled (06/07). The Al-Mustaqbal daily and the United Society for Arab Press were transferred to the Publications Court, following the complaint MP Michel Aoun filed against them (06/14).
In Syria, the violations on the media and cultural scene continued at the same pace during the month of May 2012. Several Syrian journalists were killed: Abdel Ghani Kaakeh in Aleppo (05/04), Ammar Muhammad Souheil Zadeh, Ahmad Al-Ashlak and Laurence Fehmi in Homs (05/27); filmmakers Bassel Shehadeh and Ahmad Al-Assam were also killed in Homs (05/28).
Journalists, citizen journalists and artists were once again victim of arbitrary arrests. The security services arrested journalist Wissam Kanaan (05/04), TV host Zuhair Al-Fakir (05/07), citizen journalist Ibrahim Al-Halabi (05/12), writer Ivene Harsan (05/16), Brazilian journalist Klester Cavalcanti and musician Mustafa Kakur (05/13). Also, according to the Syrian League for the Defense or Human Rights, Syrian authorities sentenced to death the media activist Mohammad Al-Hariri; marking a judicial precedent (05/18).
Syrian authorities released Turkish journalists Adem Ozkose and Hamit Coskun (05/12) as well as eight activists from the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM): Hanadi Zahlout, Yara Bader, Razan Ghazzawi, Sanaa Muhsen, Mayada Khalil, Bassam Al-Ahmad, Joan Farso and Ayham Ghazzul (05/12). Eight of their colleagues, including SCM director Mazen Darwish and bloggr Hussein Ghrer are still held in custody. Novelist Khaled Khalifeh and scholar researcher Hassan Abbas were severely beaten, while attending the funeral of a friend (05/26) and the investigating judge decided to keep journalist Mary Issa and her husband under arrest; they are currently detained in the central prison of Adra (05/15). Journalist Jihad Jammal was transferred to the Military Intelligence Directorate in Damascus, awaiting trial (05/29).
Syrian authorities decided to merge the dailies Tishreen and Al-Thawra (05/22) and the Arab League officially asked the satellite operators to stop broadcasting Syrian state media channels on Nile-Sat and Arab-Sat (05/04).
In June, six more Syrian journalists were killed: Khaled Al-Bikr in Al-Qusair (06/10), Ahmad Hamada in Homs (06/16), Samer Khalil Al-Satleh in Duma (06/28) and Al-Ikhbariya TV journalists Sami Abou Amin, Zeid Kohl and Mohammad Shammah, during an attack carried out against the channel’s headquarters (06/27). On another front, Belgian photographer Ahmad Bahaddou was hit in the shoulder (06/15).
Al-Ikhbariya TV correspondent Shadi Hilweh was attacked live on air, while covering the events in the city of Aleppo (06/02) and Syrian authorities arrested journalist Mohammad Sami Al-Kayal in Tartous (06/27).
In Jordan, security services prevented an Al-Jazeera crew from filming inside the Palestinian refugee camps (05/09) and the Publications Department from providing copies of the book « Ya Sahibi Al Sejn » (My friend, the prison) (05/20). Jordanian authorities confiscated the passport of Hossam Ezzedine, a member of the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate’s General Secretariat, at the Al-Karama Bridge (05/04). The Minister of Industry and Trade Shabeeb Ammari attacked Tarek Al-Daaja, an Al Ghad journalist, because of an article he published (05/14) and the Jordanian center “JADARA for capacity building” filed a complaint against journalist Hanan Khandakji and the BBC channel, following the broadcasting of a report related to child abuse inside the center (05/21).
The trial court of Amman asked the Al-Ghad daily to stop publishing the archives of cartoonist Imad Hajjaj (05/23). The Al-Arab Al-Yawm journalists appointed the Secretary General of the Ministry of Water at the head of the editorial board (05/24). Journalist Jamal Al-Muhtasseb was released on bail after he expressed his intention to begin a hunger strike (05/13) and Jordanian blogger Inas Moussallem decided to prosecute the former Minister of Interior and the General Security Director (05/21) after the aggression she suffered in April.
In June, staff members working for the governor of Maan beat up the correspondent Mohammad Sakallah (06/11). Also, journalist Hanan Kafawin was assaulted, while conducting an investigation on rotten food (06/06) sold in shopping malls, and the General Security forced the correspondent Rabih Al-Saoub to leave the Royal Cultural Center, after confiscating the camera of the photographer who was accompanying him (06/26). A group of unknown people destroyed the windshield of journalist Shadi Samhan’s car (06/08).
Three journalists from the Al-Ra’i daily were called to appear before the court for lack of objectivity and the publication of false news in an article on a corruption case (06/12). The Attorney General also decided to bring the editor-in-chief and a journalist of the Al-Dustour daily to court, following the criminal proceedings launched against the newspaper (06/07). The trial court was entrusted with the task of ruling on cases of incitement to violence and insults within the audiovisual media, instead of the Court of State Security (06/20).
In the Gaza Strip, the violations on the media and cultural scene increased in scale during the month of May 2012. The Israeli forces opened fire on the Iqra satellite channel team members, who were carrying out their journalistic work in Khan Younes (05/01) and the Israeli authorities refused to provide the poet Salim Al-Naffar with a permit to enter the 1948 Territories to participate in the International poetry festival in Nazareth (05/02).
Internally, members of the Hamas security broke into the closing ceremony of the Palestine Festival of Literature, beat up the activists and forced the audience to leave (05/09). Also, the Hamas police arrested the Al-Quds satellite channel crew and prevented them from filming at the Al-Shifa hospital, under the pretext that they did not have an authorization (05/07).
The violations on the media and cultural scene were also numerous during the month of June 2012; the Hamas security assaulted a number of journalists: journalist Wissam Nassar was assaulted while trying to film the dismissed Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh (06/13); members of the Al-Quds satellite channel crew were beaten while filming a report on the congestion in the waiting room at the Rafah crossing (06/20). The Hamas security also arrested journalist Mohammad Qneiteh after raiding his house (06/10) and journalist Yehya Al-Madhoun was summoned and then arrested, following articles he published (06/17).
In the West Bank, the violations perpetrated by the Israeli forces against the Palestinian journalists and correspondents remained unchanged during the month of May 2012. Israeli soldiers attacked them while they were covering confrontations with protesters: the Wafa agency photographer was hit by a rubber-coated bullet in the left foot (05/07), the European Agency photographer, Alaa Badrana, by a grenade in the shoulder and AFP photographer, Jaafar Ashtieh, by a bullet in the stomach and a teargas grenade in the back (05/11). Also, the Falasteen satellite channel cameraman, Shamekh Al-Jaghub suffered from acute asphyxia after being attacked with teargas grenades (05/17) and Associated Press photographer, Nasser Al-Shoyukhi, was hit by a stone on the head (05/01). Israeli soldiers stormed the house of Bahaa Moussa, the Al-Asir satellite channel director, before arresting him and confiscating the broadcasting equipment (05/17). Israeli authorities also extended the detention of Walid Khaled, bureau chief of the Falasteen daily in the West Bank, for a period of four months (05/08).
Internally, the Palestinian security services summoned journalists Ahmad Melhem (05/02), Shadi Zama’ira (05/21) and Sahib Al-Assa (05/28). In Ramallah, the Attorney General continued his investigation with journalist Yusef Al-Shayeb for “slander and defamation” (05/06). Palestinian security prevented the journalists from covering Naomi Campbell’s visit to the Church of the Nativity (05/22) and the trial of George Kanawati, the broadcaster of Radio Bethlehem 2000 was postponed until September 3 (05/23). The Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, gave instructions directly to the Attorney General, Ahmad Al-Mughni, reversing the order to censor the following nine websites: Amad, Fatah Voice, Firas Press, In Light Press, Karama Press, Kofia Press, Milad News, Palestine Beituna and Fatah News. A group of unknown people hacked the Wafa website and published provocative articles against the national authority (05/27).
Many other violations were carried out on the media and cultural scene in June 2012. The Israeli forces arrested the Sawt Al-Aqsa correspondent, Sharif Al-Rajjoub, after raiding his house (06/03) and Asiad Amarneh, a photographer at Al-Aqsa satellite channel, for two hours, while he was filming a protest in Al-Naqsa (06/05). The Israeli military court of Ofer sentenced Raed Sharif, the Radio Marah broadcaster, to ten months of prison and a USD 1,000 fine (06/06).
Palestinian security forces beat up journalist Mohammad Jradat, who was covering a protest against the visit of Shaul Mofaz to Ramallah, before leading him to the police station where he was beaten again; he was then taken to the hospital and eventually released (06/30). Members of the Palestinian Preventive Security banned Asiad Amarneh from covering the protest organized by the families of the political prisoners in the region of Hebron (06/06) and the Palestinian intelligence prevented photographer Abdel Ghani Al-Natcheh from covering the protest organized by the families of political prisoners in Bethlehem (06/27). Also, a group of unknown people broke into the office of Najib Farraj, the Al-Quds daily correspondent and destroyed his documents (06/14).
In the 1948 Territories, settlers brutally attacked journalist Rami Osman and snatched out his glass eye after arresting him (05/20) and an Israeli soldier beat up Palestinian journalist Diala Jweihan; his colleagues trampled on her while she was covering the clashes in the region of Al-Issawiya in Jerusalem (05/15). The Israeli police hampered the work of journalists who were covering a peaceful protest in Jerusalem (05/20).
The University of Haifa has significantly contributed in increasing the number of violations. It banned the distribution of 25 images showing the suffering of Palestinian prisoners during an exhibition entitled: “In memory of the Nakba... and the prisoners’ victory” and prevented the creation of a photo exhibition related to the Nakba, even though students received a prior authorization (05/14). Also, the University canceled a political, cultural and artistic activity three hours before the scheduled time; this activity included artist Salim Daou’s play “Sag Salim” (05/16). The administration did not hesitate to remove the Arabic name of the university from the official logo; the Arab Education Monitoring Committee and the Hirak Center sent the university a letter of condemnation (05/21). Finally, the Israeli censorship authorities launched a new technical system to control the social networks Facebook and Twitter (05/01).
In June, the Israeli police arrested the director of the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club and prevented him from organizing activities (06/13). Israeli authorities prevented the director of manuscripts at the Al-Aqsa mosque from giving interviews to the media for a period of six months (06/05). The director of the government’s media bureau denied the existence of political considerations as to the distribution of advertisements to Arabic newspapers (06/25). The Israeli Attorney General quashed the indictment brought against journalist Mahmoud Abou Ata in 2009, after three years of unfair trial (06/05).
American novelist Alice Walker refused to authorize a Hebrew translation of her prize-winning book “The Color Purple”, criticizing the racist policies adopted by Israel (06/03). Indian artist Zakir Hussein responded to the boycott request sent by 85 Indian musicians and canceled two concerts scheduled in Israel (06/11). A petition calling for an equitable distribution of the Israeli Ministry of Culture’s budget was submitted, as well as another one asking for an Arabic translation of the government’s websites (06/27). Finally, a bill imposing sanctions on academic institutions that commemorate the Nakba was submitted to the Knesset (06/18).