SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom - Samir Kassir Foundation

Press and Cultural Freedom Violations in the Levant-October 2019

Tuesday , 05 November 2019

Lebanese journalists and photographers were directly targeted after the eruption of the popular uprising that swept across the country since October 17. As a result, 22 media professionals were beaten, eight prevented from filming, ten insulted, three threatened and six had their phones or cameras broken. Also, the National News Agency director was dismissed due to the agency’s coverage of the mass protests. Security services arrested three citizen journalists over Facebook publications and beat three photographers, while legal actions regarding publishing issues targeted five journalists, a newspaper, a magazine, a news website and two Facebook accounts.

In Syria, two citizen journalists were killed, seven injured by Turkish airstrikes, one by a Russian raid and two others arrested. Israeli forces injured a photographer in the Gaza Strip and beat another in the West Bank. Also, the Israeli police beat a journalist and two reporters in the 1948 Territories, prevented two others from filming and summoned two female journalists for questioning. As for the Hamas security, it arrested a journalist and questioned another one. The Palestinian Preventive Security arrested a journalist in the West Bank and the Ramallah Court blocked access to 52 news websites. In Jordan, teachers attacked a TV crew.
Below is a detailed summary of the violations monitored by the SKeyes Center in all four countries.

In Lebanon, 22 media professionals were beaten, eight prevented from filming, ten insulted, three threatened and six had their phones or cameras broken at the hands of security services, Hezbollah and Amal supporters, as well as protesters themselves. Also, the National News Agency director, Laure Sleiman, was dismissed due to the agency’s coverage of the protests. Before the beginning of the peaceful demonstrations, the Criminal Investigation Department arrested citizen Sultan Monzer for five days (10/03), the army intelligence and military police questioned activist Ali Hassan (10/09) and the State Security questioned Mohammad Saleh (10/10) over Facebook posts where they criticized the President of the Republic. Moreover, retired army officers beat three photographers while they were covering their protest in front of the VAT building (10/09).

Judicially, the Beirut Court of Appeal fined journalist Fida’ Itani in the complaints filed against him by Wafiq Safa and Nader Hariri (10/04). Also, the Tawhed website owner Sheikh Hashem Minqara and journalist Ghassan Saoud were fined in the complaint filed against them by lawyer Tarek Shindab (10/08) over an article, while the Publications Court postponed the verdict in the trial of Nida’ Al Watan editor-in-chief Bechara Charbel, as well as managing director George Berbari, until November 21 (10/10) and the trial of Hani Nsouli until November 26 (10/15). In addition, five Lebanese lawyers sought legal action against British magazine The Economist for “damaging the reputation and financial status of the Lebanese state and insulting the Lebanese flag and Cedar tree” (10/08), five journalists filed a complaint against Maria Maalouf because of her tweets (10/16), and Hezbollah’s security chief Wafiq Safa filed a lawsuit against Ali Walaa Mazloum, who manages the Facebook page “Abir Mansour” for “slander and defamation” (10/08).

In Syria, citizen journalists Saad Ahmad and Mohammad Rasho were killed, while Dilsoz Dildar, Shayar Fayad Ibrahim, Amal Hamza Younis, Abdul-Rachid Mohammad, Rojbin Akin, Pirijan Dilal and Arsin Jackso were injured during the Turkish shelling of Qamishli (10/13). Also, activist Mohammad Faysal Al-Aakleh was injured when Russian warplanes conducted airstrikes on the Idlib countryside (10/31). The Tahrir al-Sham group arrested citizen journalist Yasser Al-Tarraf in the Aleppo countryside (10/25) and the Turkish authorities arrested Al-Arabiya correspondent Zaidan Zanklo while he was covering the battles in northern Syria; his residence and work permits were both revoked (10/12).

In Jordan, number of teachers assaulted a Roya TV crew (10/03) in the southern Mazar district while they were covering their strike. The crew members refused to talk about the aggression for personal reasons and even to disclose their names. However, the channel’s administration issued a statement saying the teachers prevented the crew members from covering the strike, beat them and broke their equipment.

In the Gaza Strip, Israeli soldiers fired a rubber-coated bullet at photographer Mahmoud Khattab while he was covering the return marches (10/25) and the Hamas security arrested journalist Bassam Muhaissin without providing any reason (10/23). Furthermore, the Hamas-affiliated Public Prosecutor questioned journalist Ahmad Said in the complaint filed against him by the Palestinian Bar Association (10/09), and the Hamas Minister of Interior framed journalist Hani Al-Agha who has been detained for more than a month (10/26).

In the West Bank, Israeli forces beat the Syrian News Channel photographer Motasem Saqf Al-Hit while he was covering a protest in Turmus Aya (10/17) while the Palestinian Preventive Security arrested Radwan Qatanani for seven days and questioned him about his journalistic work (10/21). Moreover, the Ramallah Magistrate Court postponed the Al-Araby Al-Jadeed shutdown case for the second time (10/22). However, the most dangerous exaction was the Ramallah Magistrate Court’s decision to block access to 52 Palestinian news websites under the pretext that they “threaten national security, civil peace, public order, or public morals;” the order was issued under Article 39 of the Palestinian cybercrime law (10/17).

In the 1948 Territories, the Israeli police beat journalist Nawal Hijazi and photographers Fayez Abou Rmeileh and Mahmoud Alyan while they were covering a protest in Jerusalem (10/26). It also prevented other photographers from filming and pushed them away from the Hadassah Hospital area (10/01) and stopped a cultural event after storming the hotel where it was held under the pretext that it is organized by Hamas (10/03). Also, the Smile Makers Youth Association (Sna3 Al Ibtisma) coordinator, Amir Zaatara, was questioned about the cultural and artistic activities organized by the group (10/07) while journalists Maysaa Abu Ghazala and Sundus Owais were summoned for questioning but the interrogation did not take place because of the Yom Kippur holiday (10/08). The Israeli authorities released photographer Moustafa Al-Kharouf who has been detained for nine months after several failed attempts to deport him to Jordan (10/24).


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