SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom - Samir Kassir Foundation

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

Friday , 10 May 2019

In the Gaza Strip, Israeli warplanes destroyed two buildings housing media and cultural centers, while soldiers continued their attacks with rubber-coated bullets and teargas, injuring four Palestinian journalists and photographers. Another journalist was wounded by live ammunition in the West Bank and nine media professionals were detained. The Israeli police stormed the Islamic Museum of Archaeology at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem and arrested its director, while two masked men set fire to the car of a media outlet owner in the 1948 Territories. Also in May, Facebook blocked the accounts of dozens of journalists and activists in Palestine and the Gaza Attorney General decided to ban the distribution of a newspaper, while a writer and a TV director were subjected to interrogation. In Syria, three correspondents and a citizen journalist were injured, a theater critic was arrested and an activist detained with his two kids. In Lebanon, nine journalists and citizen journalists were summoned for their online publications while the security services arrested a TV owner and a journalist in Jordan.
Below is a detailed summary of the violations monitored by the SKeyes Center the four countries it monitors.

In Lebanon, the Anti-Cybercrime and Intellectual Property Bureau summoned activist Firas Bou Hatoum (05/07), journalist Kazem Akar (05/17) and activist Amer Halal (05/27) for questioning them about their online publications; they were released on the same day. Also, State Security officers arrested Rachid Joumblatt for libel and slander against Minister Gebran Bassil in a Facebook video (05/08), and unknown people attacked Adnan Farhat before he was arrested by the judicial police for criticizing Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri on Whatsapp (05/13). The security services arrested the President of the General Confederation of Lebanese Workers, Bechara Asmar, for nine days, following a leaked video in which he mocked late Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Mar Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir (05/18). Moreover, the Publications Court summoned radio host Nawal Lichaa over a radio interview about the Lebanese University (05/02), Lebanon’s Telecommunications Ministry blocked gay dating app Grindr (05/24), and the Public Prosecution Office accepted a complaint against music composer Samir Sfeir after he spoke about Jesus during an interview on MTV (05/29).

In Syria, Al-Kawthar TV correspondent, Suhaib Al-Masri, was hit by a bullet while covering battles in the province of Hama (05/11) and American journalist Bilal Abdul-Karim was injured during the bombing of the same area by the regime forces (05/22). Also, citizen journalist Ayham Al-Bayush (05/17), as well as Syria TV and Al-Jisr TV correspondents, respectively Mustafa Al-Khalaf and Mustafa Al-Abbas, were wounded when the regime warplanes raided the province of Idlib. Sky News journalist Alex Crawford and her camera crew were deliberately targeted by the Syrian government and repeatedly shot at while reporting on the regime’s assault on the province of Idlib (05/23).
Additionally, the regime’s police arrested theater critic, Yasser Dribati in Lattakia because of a Facebook post (05/12), while the Turkish gendarmerie detained citizen journalist Mazen Al-Shami and his two children at the border, before beating them and sending them back to Syria.

In Jordan, the security services arrested the Al-Ordon Al-Yoom TV owner, Mohammad Fakhri Aajlouni and the Aal-Rabe3 politic show host Rana Hammuz (05/19), following a complaint filed by the Gendarmerie Department Director General, Hussein Hawatmeh, after the channel broadcasted a video in which it criticized one of his statements; they were released on the same day. Ajlouni and Hammuz had already testified before the Amman Public Prosecutor eight days earlier.

In the Gaza Strip, Israeli warplanes destroyed two buildings housing four media and cultural centers: the Anadolu News Agency, Abdallah Al-Hourani Center for Studies and Documentation, Asra Media Office and Hala Palestine for Training Foundation (05/04). Israeli soldiers targeted Amad news website correspondent, Safinaz Alloh, and Al-Araby TV correspondent, Imad Badwan, with rubber-coated bullets (05/03). Also, they attacked Anadolu news agency photographer, Abdul-Rahim Khatib, with teargas and Media Truth Pioneers’ network director, Ramzi Al-Shakhrit, with a rubber-coated bullet, while they were covering the Great March of Return protests (05/10).
Internally, the Palestinian police questioned writer Abdallah Abou Sharakh about his Facebook posts for several hours before releasing him (05/25). The Public Prosecution and the police questioned Baldna TV owner and director, Ahmad Saeed, for “defaming the Bank of Palestine” in his Facebook posts (05/20) and the Gaza Attorney General decided to ban the distribution of Al-Hayat Al-Jadida newspaper in the Gaza Strip under the pretext that it stirs violence and sectarian strife (05/27).

In the West Bank, Israeli forces shot journalist Sari Jradat in the leg (05/03) and arrested photographers Ahmad Al-Baz, Abdul-Hafiz Al-Hashlamoun (05/03), Hazem Nasser, Mahmoud Fawzi and Shadi Jararaa (05/12), as well as journalists Hisham Abou Chacra, Khaled Bdeir and Raneen Sawafta (05/12).
Additionally, Facebook blocked the accounts of dozens of journalists and activists in Palestine, some without previous warning or justification, and others for “infringing Israel’s privacy and rights” (05/23).

In the 1948 Territories, Israeli forces stormed the Islamic Museum of Archaeology at the Al-Aqsa Mosque and arrested its director Arafat Al-Amro (05/24). Also, the Tel Aviv University administration prevented students from organizing a cultural event on the Nakba (05/15) and two masked men set fire to the car of Monhem Halabi, the Kol Elnas newspaper owner and editor (05/12).
The Nazareth district court decided to acquit poet Dareen Tatour after she spent five months in prison on charges of incitement to violence (05/16) and the Supreme Court decided to freeze the deportation order of Anadolu news agency photographer, Mustafa Al-Kharouf, to Jordan after he spent more than four months in prison without any legal justification (05/05).

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