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SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom - Samir Kassir Foundation

Freedom of Expression Violations in the Levant - July 2023

Tuesday , 05 September 2023

Over 23 journalists and photographers fell victim to Israeli violations in both Lebanon and the Palestinian territories. Additionally, two journalists were prevented from covering events in Gaza, while another two were arrested in the West Bank. The Lebanese judiciary handed down a prison sentence to TV journalist Dima Sadek, and a politician along with his bodyguards physically assaulted journalist Simon Abou Fadel on live television. In Jordan, the Parliament approved of a heavily criticized cybercrime law, MPs were given permission to insult artists, and authorities blocked access to the satirical platform Al-Hudood. Syrian authorities revoked the BBC’s media accreditation, terminated the broadcast of a show, and raided a writer’s residence.

Below is a detailed summary of the violations monitored by the SKeyes Center in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Palestine.

In Lebanon, Israeli forces targeted NBN correspondent Hassan Fakih, employing a stun grenade and firing three warning shots into the air to intimidate him (07/14). Additionally, they deployed tear gas and stun grenades at multiple other media professionals, including Al-Jadeed correspondent Mohammad Farhat and Al-Manar correspondent Ali Sheaib (07/15). Former minister Wiam Wahhab and his bodyguards physically assaulted journalist Simon Abou Fadel on live television, then in front of the MTV channel building (07/20). However, the gravest transgression took the form of a one-year prison sentence handed to journalist Dima Sadek, coupled with a fine of LBP 110 million. This ruling stemmed from a complaint lodged against her by the Free Patriotic Movement, arising from a tweet she had posted (07/10).

In Syria, the regime’s security forces conducted a raid on the apartment of writer Lama Abbas in Damascus and tried to arrest her (07/27). Earlier, the government invalidated the BBC’s media accreditation following its report on Captagon trade (07/08). The General Authority for Radio and Television suspended the “Captain” show after it discussed Iranian and Russian control over government lands (07/12).

In the regions under the control of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in eastern and northern Syria, the RCell service provider enforced an application on its customers that violates their privacy, accompanied by threats to suspend services for those unwilling to comply (07/10).

In Jordan, the Parliament approved amendments to the extensively criticized cybercrime law. This decision has raised concerns among journalists and human rights activists who view it as a looming threat to both public and individual freedoms (07/27).

Furthermore, the Amman Magistrates’ Court granted Jordanian MPs the ability to disparage artists. This was achieved by acquitting MP Suleiman Abu Yahya of charges including defamation, slander, and contempt directed towards artist Mondher Rayahneh. In his statements, Abu Yahya characterized Rahayneh as insolent, degrading, and corrupt. Abu Yahya even went so far as to call for the revocation of Rahayneh’s Jordanian nationality (07/11). Adding to the contentious landscape, the Jordan Media Commission blocked access to the Al-Hudood website without explaisning the reasons (07/04). Additionally, due to a dispute with Captain Rakan Al-Saaida, the Press Association dismissed journalists Ibrahim Qubailat and Adnan Bariyeh (07/03).

In the West Bank, Israeli forces directed live bullets and tear gas towards Palestinian journalists and photographers during their incursion into the Jenin refugee camp. This resulted in injuries sustained by numerous media professionals, including Abdul-Rahman Yunis from Russia Today, the Al-Araby TV crew consisting of correspondent Amid Shehada and cameraman Rabih Al-Munir, and Anadolu team members Hisham Abu Shaqra and Issam Al-Rimawi (07/03). Deutsche Welle correspondent Raja’i Khatib also suffered from the assault (07/04). Similarly affected were the Palestine TV crew members, cameraman Abdullah Abu Sabra and reporter Bakr Abdul-Haq (07/19). Yunis and Abu Shaqra were not only prohibited from covering the events but were also threatened to be shot at (07/16). Furthermore, the Israeli forces detained the Wafa news agency crew, including correspondent Mashhour Hussein Al-Wahwah and photographer Munif Ahmad Kazzaz, subjecting them to several hours of confinement under the blazing sun (07/15).

The Israeli intelligence questioned Abdullah Bahash, correspondent for the Quds News Network, regarding his journalistic activities (07/11). Meanwhile, the District Court of Jerusalem extended the travel ban on Turkish TRT channel correspondent Majdoleen Hassouna, without providing any explanation (07/9).

On a different note, Palestinian intelligence detained journalist Ahmad Al-Baytawi in Nablus (07/05) and journalist Sami Al-Saai for nine hours in Tulkarem (07/31).

In the Gaza Strip, Israeli forces targeted multiple media professionals using tear gas grenades, leading to injuries sustained by photographer Osama Saleh (07/03), Reuters photographer Fadi Shanaa, and Palestine Today correspondent Ashraf Al-Sarraj. The latter experienced severe suffocation and fainting due to the attack.

Also in Gaza, Hamas security personnel prevented Palestine TV correspondent Walid Abdul-Rahman and freelance journalist Ihab Fasfous from reporting on the popular protests in both the northern and southern sectors of the Strip (07/30).

Shifting to the 1948 Territories, the Israeli police physically assaulted Al-Araby TV cameraman Jamal Awad and journalist Ahmad Abu Sbeih in Jerusalem (07/05). The police also obstructed Aljarmaq correspondent Karen Al-Bash and Bokra website correspondent Rashad Amri from covering events in Haifa (07/04). In a separate incident, a female settler assaulted correspondents Abdullah Ibrahim and Mohammad Khaliliya at the Jalama checkpoint (07/04).

Moreover, the District Court prolonged the detention of journalist Ramzi Abbassi citiing the need to conclude ongoing proceedings. In another instance, journalist Lama Ghawshe was not only fined by also handed a nine-month sentence of community service (07/11).

This report was produced with the support of:

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