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SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom - Samir Kassir Foundation

Freedom of Expression Violations in the Levant - November 2023

Monday , 08 January 2024

In November 2023, Palestine, Lebanon, and Syria bore witness to varying degrees of bloodshed, a grim reality that the world seems to overlook. The prevailing indifference only serves to embolden perpetrators, allowing them to commit heinous crimes against humanity, callously taking the lives of defenseless civilians, including journalists.

In Gaza, the Israeli military has left a devastating trail, claiming the lives of 19 journalists, six photographers, a poet, and an artist, along with members of their families. Lebanon, too, faced tragedy as a correspondent and cameraman fell victim, and a journalist’s car was deliberately targeted, resulting in the loss of his three nieces and their grandmother. Syria, amidst its own turmoil, experienced the killing of a citizen journalist.

The SKeyes Center documented these violations across Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan providing a comprehensive overview of the atrocities.

In the Gaza Strip, the Israeli war machine unleashed a relentless onslaught, resulting in the deaths of thousands of unarmed civilians, including children, women, the elderly, journalists, photographers, and artists. The heavy bombardment by warplanes, drones, tanks, as well as sniper fire claimed the lives of 19 journalists, 6 photographers, a poet, and an artist, with an additional 11 media professionals and a filmmaker sustaining injuries.

Among the casualties were Majd Fadl Arandas of Al-Jamahir website (11/01), Palestine TV correspondent Mohammad Abu Hatab (11/02), government media office journalist Haitham Harara (11/03), Press House Foundation correspondent Mohammad Al-Jaja (11/06), Wafa agency journalist Mohammad Abu Hassira, Al-Aqsa station journalist Yahya Abu Mneih (11/07), Namaa station general director Moussa Al-Bursh (11/12), Namaa station executive director Yaaqoub Al-Bursh (11/13), writer and journalist Mustafa Al-Sawaf, Al-Aqsa group journalists Imro Ribah Abu Hayya and Abdul-Halim Awad, Al-Quds News network director Hassuna Slim, freelance journalist Amal Zohod (11/18), Press House director Bilal Jadallah (11/19), Al-Majidat network journalist Alaa Taher Al-Hassanat, freelance journalist Ayat Khaddoura (11/20), Amwaj sports channel journalist Jamal Haniyeh, Al-Quds Today satellite channel Mohammad Nabil Al-Zoq, journalist and sound engineer at both Al-Ra’i and Namaa, Assem Al-Bursh (11/21), Al-Aqsa satellite channel photographer Mohammad Al-Bayyari (11/02), Al-Aqsa University photographer Ahmad Al-Qarra (11/10), Al-Qahera news channel photographer Ahmad Ftaimeh (11/13), Al-Quds News network photographer Sary Mansour (11/18), freelance photographer Mohammad Ayyash (11/22), and Al-Aqsa satellite channel photographer and director Mustafa Bkeir (11/23). Poet Janeen Al-Hassanat (11/20) and artist Thaer Al-Taweel also lost their lives.

Several other media professionals sustained injuries, including Clight media production company's Ismail Abu Hatab (11/02), freelance photographer Khaled Sultan (11/08), Al-Ghad satellite channel cameraman Said Al-Majdalawi (11/09), Anadolu agency photographer Muntaser Al-Sawaf, director Mohammmad Al-Sawaf (11/18), Alkofiya satellite channel cameraman and storywriter Amro Tabash, Reuters agency photographer Fadi Shanaa, Associated Press photographer Fatima Shbeir, Russia Today channel cameraman Samed Abu Zarife, as well as freelance photographers Mohammad Al-Haddad, Amer Al-Sultan, and Haitham Noureddin (11/23).

The Israeli raids also razed several media offices, including AFP, Al-Jazeera, An-Najah News institute and website, Asharq satellite channel (11/03), and New Scene television production company (11/22). Cultural institutions were not spared, with the Rashad Shawa cultural centre, public library, municipal printing press, Is’ad Al-Tofula cultural centre (11/20), and Rahaf Municipality cultural centre (11/21) among the targeted institutions.

The Israeli army went further, seizing freelance journalist Ahmad Al-Danaf’s private drone (11/27) and intimidating Al-Jazeera correspondent Anas Al-Sharif, pressuring him to cease coverage of the events (11/22). Additionally, the Israeli Supreme Court rejected the appeal seeking information on the fate of An-Najah website photographer Nidal Al-Wahidi and Ain Media company photographer Haitham Abdul-Wahed (11/01), who went missing on October 7.

In the West Bank, Israeli forces targeted Sky News Arabia cameraman Raed Al-Helou with a rubber-coated bullet (11/26). The situation escalated with the arrest of multiple media professionals, including freelance journalist Sumaya Azzam Jawabra, Al-Irsal network correspondent Amir Abu Aram (11/05), Jmedia agency correspondent Abdul-Mohsen Shalalda (11/07), Alam station host Mohammad Al-Atrash, Quds Press network correspondent Amer Abu Arfeh (11/08), and Raya FM journalist Tarek Al-Sharif (11/19).

Further crackdowns ensued as Israeli forces arrested Wafa news agency journalists Mohammad Fathy Abu Bakr and Jaafar Sadaka (11/03), Palestine TV crew members – office director Omar Ahmad Abu Awad, journalists Mohammad Jawad Al-Zegheb, Samer Assaad Abu Sleiman, and Ilham Fatfy Hdeib (11/13), freelance journalist Mo’men Samreen (11/21), Al-Mayadeen channel cameraman Sary Jradat (11/22), Al-Hadath newspaper correspondent Misaab Shawer, Pal Post network correspondent Mahmud Sleiman Al-Tamizi, Radio 4 FM correspondent Taha Abu Hussein (11/24), and Alam station journalist Hafez Talahmeh (11/28). These arrests aimed to hinder their journalistic work in different regions of the West Bank.

Incidents of violence against media personnel persisted as an Israeli military Jeep attempted to run over Jordanian Roya TV members, correspondent Hafez Abu Sabra and cameraman Abada Tahaineh (11/09). Settlers also assaulted Al-Jazeera English photographer Joseph Handal (11/17). In addition, Israeli forces forcibly closed two printing shops and a bookstore after raiding them and confiscating equipment (11/06).

In the 1948 Territories, Israeli authorities arrested freelance journalist Hazifa Jamous (11/07), ABC journalist Mirvat Al-Izza (11/16), photographer Hamza Al-Naaji (11/01), and freelance photographer Abdul-Afou Zgheir (11/17). Teargas grenades were fired at journalists and photographers to obstruct their coverage of events in Al-Quds, resulting in the injury of Al-Hayat newspaper correspondent Diala Jweihan (11/03). Israeli forces forcibly evicted journalists from the house of freed prisoner Isra’ Al-Jaabiss, where an Israeli soldier assaulted Asharq channel correspondent Yasmine Assaad (11/26).

Also, a journalist and several photographers from Israel lured the Al-Mayadeen channel correspondent, Hana Mahameed, to intimidate and threaten her in the central region (11/06). The Nazareth court filed an indictment against artist Maisa Abdul-Hadi on charges of incitement and supporting terrorism. It extended her house arrest and prevented her from using her social media accounts (11/09).

Moreover, journalists from Israel manipulated Al-Mayadeen channel correspondent Hana Mahameed, luring her to intimidate and threaten her in the central region (11/06). The Nazareth court filed an indictment against artist Maisa Abdul-Hadi on charges of incitement and supporting terrorism, extending her house arrest and restricting her use of social media accounts (11/09).

In Lebanon, Israeli attacks on South Lebanese villages persisted throughout November, adding to its track record of attacks on civilians, journalists, and photographers. An Israeli warplane executed targeted strikes on Al-Mayadeen crew members, killing correspondent Farah Omar, and cameraman Rabih Maamari in Tayr Harfa (11/21). In Ainata, an Israeli drone intentionally targeted journalist Samir Ayoub’s car, leading to the tragic deaths of his nieces and their grandmother, with the journalist sustaining injuries (11/05). Another deliberate strike on media crews in Yaroun injured Al-Jazeera cameraman Issam Mawassi and damaged the network’s broadcast vehicle (11/13). Additionally, the Israeli army fired shots in the air in Khiam to intimidate the NBN channel team, including correspondent Rasha Al-Zein and photographer Ahmad Sawfan (11/25).

Also in November, journalists Nadim Koteich, Dima Sadek, Layal Alekhtiar, Rami Naim (11/06), and Nancy El-Sabeh (11/22) faced a smear campaign, accused of collaboration due to their political stances. Alekhtiar, specifically, had a search warrant issued against her by the public prosecution over an interview on Al-Arabiya with Israeli army spokesman Avichay Adraee (11/16). The Criminal Investigation Department summoned journalist Michel Kanbour, questioning him over an investigative report (11/23). Furthermore, the Sharika Wa Laken Instagram page was hacked (11/14).

In Syria, citizen journalist Mahmoud Said Al-Kafri was killed by an armed group affiliated with the Syrian regime in Maaraba, eastern countryside of Daraa, for participating in anti-regime protests (11/10). The Anti-Cybercrime Section of the Criminal Security Department arrested former pro-regime journalist Bashar Najla in Baniyas, Tartous countryside (11/02) on charges of insulting the President of the Republic.

In Jordan, cartoonist Emad Hajjaj faced an online campaign over a cartoon addressing the exchange of prisoners and hostages between Hamas and
Israel (11/27). Al-Mamlaka TV suffered a cyber attack while covering the Israeli offensive against Gaza (11/03). Lastly, Facebook temporarily shut down the Al-Ghad newspaper’s Facebook account for 24 hours after it published a picture of Abu Obaida (11/17). However, the page remained closed for 35 days.

This report is published with the support of:

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