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Violations of Press and Cultural Freedom in the Levant - December 2018
January 15, 2019

Six Palestinian journalists and photographers were injured in East Gaza after Israeli forces attacked them with teargas and live bullets. Seven were also wounded in the West Bank, four others arrested and five detained in the 1948 Territories. The Palestinian security services arrested three journalists in the West Bank, summoned another one in Gaza and prevented two others from filming.

In Syria, the regime’s security forces arrested a journalist and a sculptor, while Tahrir Al-Sham arrested two citizen journalists and threatened to execute a third one. In Lebanon, the security services beat a female correspondent and two photographers; they also arrested a journalist at his office. The prosecutor general of Amman arrested two Jordanian journalists following the publication of a photo.

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

In Lebanon, the security agents beat Al-Jadeed correspondent, Rachel Karam and her colleague, Zakaria Al-Khatib, as well as The Daily Star photographer, Hassan Shaaban, who were covering the protests in Beirut (12/23). They also arrested journalist Hazem El-Amin after raiding his office and questioned him for two hours before releasing him (12/10).

In Syria, the Air Force Intelligence arrested sculptor Suhail Zebyan in the Damascus countryside (12/08) and the security services arrested Damascus Now network director, Wissam Al-Tair, and his colleague Sonil Ali in Damascus (12/15). On the other hand, Tahrir Al-Sham arrested citizen journalists Amjad Katlati for a day (12/17) and Khaled Al-Hassan for 12 days (12/19) in Idlib, and threatened to execute one of its detainees, Amjad Al-Maleh (12/09).

In Jordan, the prosecutor general of Amman decided to arrest Al-Wakeel News publisher Mohammad Al-Wakeel and editor Ghadir Al-Rabihat for a week at the Jwaideh Correctional and Rehabilitation Center (12/10), in the complaint filed against them over a Facebook picture depicting the Last Supper and deemed offensive. Both were denied bail. Journalists then held a sit-in in front of the Jordanian Press Association asking for their colleague’s immediate release, which prompted the prosecutor to release them two days later.

In the Gaza Strip, Israeli forces continued their violations against Palestinian media professionals with live ammunition, rubber-coated bullets and teargas grenades: Israa Al-Bhaisy was injured in the right leg, Mostafa Hassuna in the right thigh, Attieh Darwish in the left hand and face, Hassan Islih in his right foot (12/14), Sami Mosran in his left foot (12/21) and Mohammad Al-Zaanun in his lower back (12/28). Also, correspondent Mohammad Wishah’s car was hit by two gas grenades (12/14), while photographer Mohammad Assaad’s camera was destroyed by bullet shrapnel (12/21).
The Hamas security prevented Palestine TV crew from filming and confiscated its equipment (12/15). It also summoned comedian Hussam Khalaf to question him about his views and work. The American cloud website firewall CloudLayar blocked several Palestinian news websites under the pretext that they violated the company’s policy by publishing articles related to Palestinian armed factions (12/11), while the YouTube administration suspended the Al-Quds Network channel for “anti-Israel incitement” (12/23).

 In the West Bank, Israeli forces targeted Mosab Shawer with a metal bullet in Hebron; he was injured in the hand (12/14). They also broke into the Wafa news agency offices, prevented the staff from leaving and fired gas inside the editorial room (12/10). Israeli soldiers also arrested journalist Sameh Munasra after raiding his house in Tulkarem (12/10) and arrested Roya satellite channel correspondent Hafez Abu Sabra, its cameraman Ashraf Al-Nibali (12/16) and photographer Nasser Al-Shuyukhi (12/19) to prevent them from covering the clashes in Al-Bireh.
Internally, the security services arrested photographers Abdul-Karim Masyaf in Ramallah (12/14) and Motasem Saqf Al-Hit in Nablus (12/30). They also arrested journalist Zeid Abou Arra after breaking into his house in Tubas (12/31).

In the 1948 Territories, Palestinian writer Ghassan Kanafani’s family members faced significant pressure from both the Interior and Culture Ministers and were forced to remove the memorial statue dedicated to him in Acre (12/16). Also, the “Barbarism” art exhibition administration cancelled an artwork including Dareen Tatour’s poem in Jerusalem following pressure from the same Culture Minister (12/25) and the Israeli police arrested journalist Samer Abou Aysha before releasing him on bail several hours later and sentencing him to home confinement (12/11).