SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom - Samir Kassir Foundation

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

Saturday , 10 August 2019

A citizen journalist was killed in Syria during the month of July 2019, while another one died under torture in the regime’s prisons. Also, a citizen journalist suffered burns and two correspondents were arrested. The Israeli forces continued their attacks against Palestinian journalists and photographers with teargas and rubber-coated bullets. As a result, six of them were injured in the Gaza Strip and five others in the West Bank. The Israeli authorities also extended a journalist’s detention period and prevented another one from travelling. Moreover, they detained two female journalists in the 1948 Territories, questioned a photographer and tried deporting another one twice. As for the Palestinian Security Services, they arrested a journalist in the West Bank, summoned another one in Gaza and questioned a third. Lebanon witnessed an unprecedented increase in violations. The Mashrou’ Leila band members received death threats and were victims of a smear campaign and hate speech, while two movies were banned. Also, MTV crew members were assaulted and their camera burnt, whereas an actor, a poet and a citizen journalist were detained. A journalist and an activist were questioned and complaints were filed against a TV station, a website, two newspapers, a journalist, a correspondent, an artist, a poet and a filmmaker because of their publications.
Below is a detailed summary of the violations monitored by the SKeyes Center in the four countries of the region.

In Lebanon, the most dangerous violation was undeniably the cancellation of Mashrou’ Leila’s planned performance at the Byblos International Festival (07/30), after the band was accused by a lawyer close to conservative Christian circles of insulting religious sanctities and inciting sectarian strife (07/22), then questioned by State Security (07/24). Members were also victims of a mounting hate campaign, along with death threats and incitement to violence, while Lawyer Khaled Merheb received death threats after he filed a complaint with the public prosecutor against four men for threats against the band (07/29). The Censorship Committee also recommended to ban two foreign movies: “Damascus Cover” under the pretext that it promotes Israeli intelligence (07/10) and “Hard Paint” because it promotes homosexuality (07/15). Moreover, the management of a restaurant in Nabatieh banned a cultural evening because of the use of a goblet drum (07/31).
Two young men attacked an MTV crew in Basta, before smashing their camera and burning it (07/29). Also, the security services arrested actor Patrick Moubarak for insulting President Michel Aoun and Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah in a leaked recording, poet Fares Saleh because of an anti Saudi Arabia poem (07/28) and citizen journalist Mohammad Wehbe for slander and defamation against the President and for posting a comment that is claimed to incite sectarian strife (07/30). The Anti-Cybercrime and Intellectual Property Bureau questioned engineer and politician Riad Al-Assaad and released him after he deleted a Facebook comment (07/15), while the Internal Security Forces’ Intelligence Unit questioned the Kawalees website manager, journalist Fahd Hamawi, about articles posted on the website (07/29).
On the other hand, lawyer Ziad Hobeich and his wife Major Suzanne Hajj filed a complaint with the Court of Publications against Future TV, Mustaqbal Web and correspondent Nahed Youssef over a report (07/12), while Minister of the Displaced Ghassan Atallah filed a lawsuit against journalist Mohammad Nemr and the two newspapers, Nidaa Al-Watan and An-Nahar, because of an article they published (07/25). Also, the Housing Banque lodged a claim against artist Mohammad Iskandar, his son Fares and video producer Wissam Kayal because of a song (07/24). The Bint Jbeil Criminal Court held a second hearing in the complaint filed against the Bint Jbeil news website founder and director, Hassan Baydoun (07/04), Al-Araby Al-Jadeed put an end to its collaboration with journalist Majdoline Lahham after she criticized the presence of weapons in Palestinian refugee camps (07/23) and Future TV’s evening news bulletin was suspended because the employees went on strike to protest against the delayed payment of their salaries (07/30).

In Syria, citizen journalist Ons Diab was killed by Russian airstrikes on Khan Sheikhoun (07/21) and activist Fadi Shbat was injured during the shelling of Ariha by the regime’s warplanes (07/27). The brother of Alaa Al-Khalidi said the latter died under torture in the regime’s prison, two years after he was imprisoned (07/12), while in Aleppo, the Syrian security forces arrested Al-Alam TV correspondent, Rabea Kalawandy (07/), and the Tahrir al-Sham group arrested Zaman Al-Wasl newspaper correspondent, Jumaa Haj Hamdo (07/24).

In the Gaza Strip, the Israeli forces continued their attacks against Palestinian media professionals with rubber-coated bullets and teargas. As a result, several of them were injured: photographer Sami Masran twice (07/05 and 07/19), photographer Mahmoud Abou Moussallem (07/12), photographer Tuka Zamili (07/12), journalist Moaz Al-Hams (07/19), photographer Safinaz Alloh (07/19) and photographer Mohammad Al-Arbid (07/22).
Internally, the security apold_paratus questioned freelance journalist Noha Abou Amro at the Rafah crossing (07/22), the Khan Younis Magistrate’s Court informed freelance journalist Ihab Fasfous of his trial date for “Internet misuse” over an audiovisual report published last September (07/16) and the Hamas police summoned journalist Ahmad Said but he did not show up (07/01).

In the West Bank, Palestinian writer Mufid Al-Taher Jalghoum was banned from travelling with his son at Al-Karama crossing without any explanation (07/19) and journalist Mohammad Mona’s administrative detention was extended for four months (07/23).
Internally, the Palestinian Preventive Security arrested journalist Thaer Al-Fakhoury for five days, accusing him of “inciting sectarian strife” (07/24), while the Ramallah Court postponed once again the trial of journalists Rami Samara and Naela Khalil (07/04). Al-Araby Al-Jadeed newspaper office was shut down (07/14) and journalist George Kanawati received death threats because of an article he published (07/15).

In the 1948 Territories, the Israeli police arrested journalists Nawal Hijazi and Rose Al-Zarou for two hours to prevent them from filming house demolitions in Wadi Al-Hummus in Jerusalem (07/22). Moreover, the police questioned photographer Rami Al-Khatib under the pretext that he “attacked a Saudi journalist” who was visiting Al-Aqsa (07/23). Also, the High Court of Justice rejected a petition filed by Al-Midan theatre against the Ministry of Culture’s decision to halt funding (07/22) and the Israeli authorities tried to deport Mustafa Al-Kharouf twice in 12 hours but the Jordanian authorities refused to let him in (07/22). Two unknown people beat journalist Wajdi Khattar in Upper Galilee (07/01) and Al-Quds newspaper employees went on a strike for a day to protest against the four-month delay in the payment of their salaries (07/23).

In Jordan, no violations were recorded on the media and cultural scene during the month of July 2019.

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