SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom - Samir Kassir Foundation

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

Saturday , 06 April 2019

Violations resumed in Syria during the month of February. A citizen journalist died under torture inside one of the regime’s prisons, while five others and an Italian photographer were injured. Also, a female activist was beaten, while another was arrested, along with a Jordanian cameraman. In Lebanon, violations also took a dangerous turn: a hand grenade was thrown at a TV station’s headquarters and a legal action initiated against it. Moreover, several journalists were beaten, while an actor, a journalist and three activists were summoned for questioning. General Security censored a cartoon in a magazine and the military police stormed into the offices of a Lebanese news website. In Palestine, Israeli forces continued their violations against Palestinian journalists; five of them were injured after being sprayed with teargas in Gaza, a journalist is facing deportation from Jerusalem while another was summoned for questioning. In the West Bank, a journalist was summoned and his house raided twice, while Israeli forces broke into another journalist’s apartment. Palestinian Security Services detained a journalist as well as a researcher in Gaza, and summoned a correspondent and a photographer in the West Bank. In Jordan, a journalist was the victim of an online smear attack after she published an article.
Below is a detailed summary of the violations monitored by the SKeyes Center in all four countries.

In Lebanon, unknown assailants attacked Al-Jadeed TV headquarters with a hand grenade thrown from a car and ran away (02/02), while members of the press were beaten at the funeral of George Zreik, who self-immolated over a dispute with his daughter’s school over the payment of tuition fees (02/09). Also, members of the military police raided the office of Lebanon Debate news website after a search warrant was issued against its owner (02/03), while the Anti-Cybercrime and Intellectual Property bureau questioned activists Ziad Zeidan, Chafic Badr and Abdul-Karim Qambris (02/04), as well as actor Ziad Itani over Facebook posts (02/05). The same bureau summoned journalist Ali Daoud after he published an article but he did not show up (02/19). Also, General Security censored a cartoon of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, which was published in the French weekly Courrier International, under the pretext that it offends a religious figure who is followed by a large part of Lebanese population (02/12). An activist named Fadi Hodroj filed a complaint before the Public Prosecution Office in the Governorate of Nabatieh against four journalists who shared that same cartoon (02/19). Moreover, former MP Walid Joumblatt filed a lawsuit against Al-Jadeed television for “libel, defamation and inciting sectarian strife” (02/07) and singer Ali Barakat was prosecuted for “encouraging sectarian violence” (02/11).

In Syria, citizen journalist Bilal Abdul-Kafi Al-Mohammad died under torture in one of the regime’s prisons (02/03). Also, Italian photojournalist Gabriele Micalizzi was injured by ISIS shelling in Deir Ez-Zor (02/11) and citizen journalist Ahmad Al-Khatib during the bombing of Idlib by the regime forces (02/09). Several other citizen journalists were wounded in a car bomb explosion in Idlib: Ammar Hamdo, Iyad Al-Asmar, Mohammad Ayman Abou Al-Bara’ and Amer Zeidan (02/18). Also in February, members of the Syrian Democratic Forces beat activist Reem Al-Nasser in Raqqa (02/14) and members of the Jaish Al-Sharqiya group arrested citizen journalist Basel Ezzeddine for four days in Aleppo (02/24), while the Syrian security arrested Jordanian photographer Omair Gharaibeh on his way back to Jordan and confiscated his camera (02/12).

In Jordan, journalist Riham Zeidan was insulted after she published an article about the Jordanian nuclear power plant (02/27), while the fate of the sixty Jordanian websites threatened to be blocked by the Jordan Media Commission, after their license renewal period has expired, remains uncertain (02/14).

In the Gaza Strip, Israeli forces continued their teargas attacks against Palestinian journalists and photographers covering the “right of return” protests. As a result, a number of them were injured: Abdul-Rahman Al-Kahlut, Motasam Abou Asser (02/01), Isra’ Al-Bheissy (02/08), Mohammad Al-Zaanun (02/15) and Munib Abou Hatab (02/19).
Internally, Hamas security arrested journalist Tufic Abou Jrad for two days over Facebook posts (02/23) and researcher Ghassan Abou Hatab after he published a research study (02/19). Also, the government media office in Gaza issued a decree banning media coverage within government institutions (02/10). Furthermore, Al-Quds satellite station informed its employees in Gaza and Beirut that it will stop broadcasting given its difficult financial situation (02/09).

In the West Bank, the Israeli police summoned journalist Alaa Al-Titi and stormed his apartment twice before arresting his brother (02/07), while Israeli forces broke into journalist Islam Zaal’s house near Bethlehem and confiscated a sum of money (02/26).
Also, the Palestinian intelligence in Bethlehem questioned Al-Haqiqa Al-Dawliya satellite channel correspondent Noureddine Banat and photographer Akram Diriya; they were released 12 hours later (02/23). And a court in Ramallah postponed until next April the trial of journalists Rami Samara and Naela Khalil (02/25).

In the 1948 Territories, the Israeli authorities decided to deport photographer Mustafa Al-Kharouf from Jerusalem under the pretext that he is “an unlawful resident” (02/24). Also, the police summoned photographer Firas Al-Debs (02/17) and a group of people living in the area of the blue bridge near Haifa filed a libel complaint against stand-up comedian Nidal Badarneh after he performed his show there (02/17).

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