SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom - Samir Kassir Foundation

Violations of Press and Cultural Freedom in the Levant-March 2019

Tuesday , 05 March 2019

Two citizen journalists were killed, two others injured, eight prevented from covering events and three arrested in Syria during the month of March 2019. Israeli forces continued their attacks against Palestinian journalists and photographers with teargas, live ammunition and rubber-coated bullets, injuring 18 in the Gaza Strip, seven in the 1948 Territories and one in the West Bank. The most serious violations in Palestine were carried out though by the Palestinian security services: 26 media professionals were arrested in Gaza while others were prevented from covering the protests amidst threats, house arrests, beatings and torture. In Lebanon, five journalists were summoned and questioned for their publications and a website was blocked in Jordan.
Below is a detailed summary of the violations monitored by the SKeyes Center in all four countries.

In Lebanon, journalist Adam Chamseddine was sentenced in absentia to three months in prison for criticizing State Security in a Facebook post (03/07) and the investigating judge questioned journalist Mariam Seifeddine for libel and slander after she published an article about the president of the Lebanese University (03/05). Also, the Supreme Islamic Shia Council filed a complaint against Al-Jadeed TV, news director Mariam Bassam and journalist Hadi Amine over a report about the selling of a mosque (03/18) and the Court of Publications convicted TV host Joe Maalouf of libel, slander and defamation in the lawsuit filed against him by Minister of Foreign Affairs Gebran Bassil (03/21).

In Syria, two citizen journalists were killed: Mahmud Abdul-Aal in the Idlib countryside by Russian airstrikes and Nassif Al-Sarmani by Syrian regime artillery (03/10). Two other citizen journalists were injured: Eyad Abdul-Jawad during the shelling of the Hama countryside by the regime forces (03/18) and Baran Misko after a landmine exploded in the Deir Ez-Zor countryside (03/23).
On the other hand, Jordanian journalist Rafat Nabhan was arrested at the Syrian-Lebanese border (03/07), the “National Security” police arrested activists Malek Abu Obeida and Badr Taleb for hours in the Aleppo countryside (03/07) and the Tahrir Al-Sham group prevented four activists from covering the Turkish patrols and beat one of them in the same region (03/18). The group also banned four activists from covering the patrols in Idlib (03/19).

In Jordan, the Media Commission blocked the access to Al-Urduniya news website a few hours only after it was launched from outside the Jordanian territory (03/17), under the pretext that it did not comply with licensing requirements, while the website managers stated that the access was denied as part of a political and security decision.

In the Gaza Strip, the Israeli forces injured 18 media professionals who were covering the “Return Marches” after attacking them with teargas, live ammunition and rubber-coated bullets: Hassan Al-Hams (03/01), Ahmad Allaw (03/01), Mahmud Allaw  (03/01), Hashem Al-Saudi (03/22), Ali Jadallah (03/22), Mohammad Abu Sultan (03/29), Mohammad Abou Haya, Mohammad Ballur, Alaa Al-Namla, Mohammad Qandil, Ata Fojo, Abdallah Al-Rantissi, Bilal Al-Darbi, Mohammad Alloh, Walid Abu Rekk, Dalia Al-Khawli, Abdallah Azara and Saber Nureddine (03/30). Also, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu designated the Hamas-run Al-Aqsa TV station as a terrorist organization (03/06).

Also in Palestine, the Palestinian Security Services affiliated with the Hamas government continued their violations against journalists, particularly the supporters of the “We Want to Live” protest movement and the ones covering it. They arrested 26 media professionals, and prevented others from covering, amidst threats, house arrests, beatings and torture: Hamza Hamad (03/10), Nabil Al-Arini (03/11), Mohammad Abdul-Salam Al-Achkar, Mohammad Alloh, Ahmad Al-Shanbari, Nour Al-Najjar, Hani Al-Agha, Sami Youssef (03/14), Ahmad Abdul-Wahed, Mo’in Mohsen, Fahed Al-Khalidi, Osama Al-Kahlout, Mo’in Farjallah, Sameh Al-Jundi (03/15), Assem Shehade, Amer Baaloushe, Mohammad Abu Sakran, Ihab Fasfus, Majed Kodeih, Bachar Taleb, Osama Abu Sakran, Mostafa Al-Dahduh, Ahmad Samhud, Mohammad Al-Jich, Ra’fat Al-Qudra, Jomaa Dallul, Ahmad Suaid, Nidal Al-Wahidi (03/16), Bilal Khaireddine (03/17) and Ahmad Al-Majayda (03/30). Moreover, a Whatsapp campaign of incitement against Mohammad Osman, Ghalia Hamad, Isra’ Al-Bhaisi, Hajer Harb, Nidal Al-Wahidi, Ayman Al-Aloul, Mohammad Abu Shaar and Ahmad Saïd was launched on charges of collaborating with the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank after they published news about the popular uprisings (03/17) and unknown people beat novelist Atef Abu Seif (03/18).

In the West Bank, the Israeli forces arrested artist Hafez Omar after breaking into his apartment in Ramallah (03/13). Also, the Palestinian security arrested journalist Hazem Nasser for 18 days, during which he was subjected to torture (03/03) and journalist Amer Abu Arfeh for 9 days (03/05). The security service also questioned journalist Mosab Shawer three times following an article he published (03/24) and journalist Sari Jaradat about his journalistic work (03/25).

In the 1948 Territories, the Israeli police beat photographers Firas Hindawi, Iyad Al-Tawil and Saleh Zghari, as well as the media coordinator of the Islamic Waqf, Firas Al-Debs; it also detained freelance journalist Diala Jweihan for six hours and prevented them from covering the attack against worshippers (03/12). The police also arrested journalist Ahmad Al-Safadi for two hours, accusing him of hampering its work (03/19) and broke into the French Cultural Institute in Jerusalem before shutting it down for hours to prevent an event from being hosted (03/21). Moreover, it summoned researcher Khalil Tafkaji and questioned him about an invitation he received to give a lecture at Al-Aqsa (03/27). Unidentified gunmen opened fire on journalist Ahmad Azaizeh’s apartment and car in Nazareth (03/03) and the municipality of Acre demolished a statue by Palestinian artist Walid Kashash (03/05). 

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