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Violations of Media and Cultural Freedom in the Levant-February 2018
March 20, 2018

Three citizen journalists were killed in Syria during the month of February 2018, while three others were injured in the Damascus and Idlib provinces. Israeli forces continued their violations against Palestinian journalists and correspondents in the West Bank: six of them were injured, eleven arrested and three beaten. In the 1948 Territories, the Israeli police held a journalist and beat him up while the Hamas security arrested two journalists in the Gaza Strip. In Lebanon, a journalist was stabbed amidst the rise of summonses and complaints. In Jordan, numerous restrictions were imposed on journalists.

Below is a detailed summary of the violations monitored by the SKeyes Center in the four countries.

In Lebanon, summonses, interrogations and complaints filed against journalists have increased. But the most dangerous attack was undeniably the stabbing of journalist Rabih Damaj (02/05).

Also in February, General Jamil Sayyed threatened to bring journalist May Chidiac to court in case she did not delete a comment that journalist Diana Moukalled posted and that she retweeted (02/21); Sayyed threatened to do the same with journalist Jessica Azar (02/21). Also, a hearing session was held for LBCI’s talk show host Marcel Ghanem and LBCI’s news director Jean Feghali before the first investigating judge in Mount Lebanon (02/16). In addition, journalist Manal Chaaya was called to appear before the Publications Court on March 1 in the complaint for slander and defamation filed against her and the An-Nahar daily by MP Nicolas Fattoush (02/20). The same court sentenced journalist Toni Abi Najm to pay a LBP 1 million fine, in the complaint filed against him by Fattoush and his brother (02/28).

In Syria, three citizen journalists were killed: Fouad Al-Hussein by Russian air strikes in the Idlib province (02/06), Abdul-Rahman Yassin during the bombing of Damascus province’s eastern Ghouta by the Syrian regime’s warplanes (02/20), while Khaled Jamal Hamu suffered the same fate (02/18). Three citizen journalists were also injured: Mohammad Abdul-Rahman (02/07) and Maher Abdul-Aziz (02/19) in the regime’s massive shelling and Walid Al-Rashed when Russian and Syrian aircrafts bombed the Idlib province (02/07).

In Jordan, the House of Representatives’ security officers prevented photographer Fares Khalifa from covering a parliament session by formal decision (02/04). Also, the Jordan Media Commission banned « Shams Bayda’ Barida » (A cold white sun), a book by writer Kafa Al-Zubi, without giving any reasons (02/10) while the Embassy of Iraq in Jordan prevented Jordanian journalists from covering a meeting to which they had been invited several days earlier (02/19). Moreover, the House of Representatives decided to restrict the work of correspondents and photographers, allowing them to be present at the Parliament and its vicinity only at specific hours (02/11).

Moreowver, Al-Anbat daily fired four journalists with a one-month notice only but reversed its decision a week later (02/04) while the Jordan Radio and Television Corporation took action against TV presenter Salah Al-Ajluni for a mistake he made live (02/19). Also, Al-Ra’i employees protested and went on strike demanding the payment of wage arrears (02/21).

In the Gaza Strip, the Hamas movement security services arrested the Media Democratic Rally board of directors’ member, Hamza Hammad (02/11) and freelance photojournalist Ihab Fasfus after summoning them (02/25). They also interrogated the An-Nahar press agency editor-in-chief Hani Al-Agha for Facebook posts criticizing the Hamas movement (02/14) and the government’s press office prevented the representatives of Taif TV for Palestinian women from organizing a launching ceremony under the pretext that they did not receive the required permits (02/18). The As-Sadaka Club fans and management launched an intimidation campaign against sports journalist Mohammad Noor and the Baladna channel (02/27), while Facebook decided to close the Kul al hakika lil Jamahir (All the truth for the public) news page, after it published photos and videos violating the website’s community standards (02/28).

In the West Bank, Israeli forces continued their violations against Palestinian photographers and journalists: photographers Najib Al-Razem and Munzer Al-Khatib were injured by bullets (02/09); Al-Khatib was sprayed with teargas and beaten (02/15). Also, photographer Ramez Aouad was hit by stun grenade (02/16) while photographer Adel Abu Nehme was hit by a rubber-coated bullet (02/23). Journalists Raed Al-Sharif (02/17) and Dia’ Huchiye (02/15) were hit by teargas grenades; Huchiye was also beaten and wounded by a stun grenade (02/16) while covering clashes between Israeli forces and young Palestinians during protests. Also, journalist Mohammad Alwan was hit then arrested (02/21) while journalists Ahmad Al-Arabid (02/05) and Abdul-Mohsen Shalalida (02/15) were arrested after their apartments were stormed. In addition, photographers Jihad Barakat, Hisham Abu Shacra, Issam Al-Rimawi, Mohammad Shusha, Mohammad Shreiteh and Mahmud Matar were prevented from filming (02/09) and journalists Shafi’ Al-Hafez and Abdul-Rahman Hassan were detained while covering a sit-in (02/16). On the other hand, the Israeli intelligence banned journalist Akram Al-Natsheh from travelling at Al-Karama crossing for “security reasons” (02/25) and the Ofer military court renewed the administrative detention of journalist Himam Hantash for a period of six months (02/08).

Internally, the presidential guard banned photographer Mohammad Shusha from entering the province to cover an event on Jerusalem under the pretext that he criticized the Palestinian presidency on his Facebook page (02/06).

In the 1948 Territories, the Israeli police prevented a group journalists from holding a dinner in Jerusalem, before beating journalist Ahmad Al-Safadi and arresting him (02/24). Finally, writer Maysoon Al-Assadi has been the target of an intimidation campaign in Acre after she published her story “Do kids know?” (02/18).