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SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom - Samir Kassir Foundation

Press and Cultural Freedom Violations January – February – March 2013 LEBANON, SYRIA, JORDAN, PALESTINE

Friday , 12 April 2013

The first quarter of 2013 was one of the bloodiest for journalists, citizen journalists, artists and intellectuals since the foundation of the SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom. In Syria, 44 media professionals, citizen journalists and writers lost their lives. The political crisis in Lebanon and clashes across the country led to an increase in the number of physical aggressions of journalists. In the West Bank and the 1948 Territories, Israeli exactions reached a particularly dangerous level of violence. Hamas also exerted significant pressure to curb freedom of expression in Gaza.

Below is a detailed summary of the violations compiled by the SKeyes Center in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Palestine during the first three months of 2013.

In January in Lebanon, a satirical video clip of an imitation of Sheikh Ahmad Al-Assir was withdrawn after members of LBCI’s “Basmat Watan” comedy show received death threats (01/31). Also, security forces hampered journalists’s work during a press conference defending the personal status civil law held in downtown Beirut; soldiers deleted photos taken by photographer Hussam Mcheimech (01/24). General Security confiscated the passport of Imad Bazzi, a blogger and human rights activist, for a week (01/02). Customs officers at the Beirut airport questioned journalist Wissam Saadé about books he was carrying, after asking him to open his bag (01/29) and a campaign of threats of insults was launched against journalist May Chidiac (01/22) in response to her position regarding the release of Georges Ibrahim Al-Abdallah from prison in France. Bahrain requested to cancel the membership of Al-Manar TV and Al-Nour Radio from the Arab States’ Broadcasting Union (01/15).

In February, Al-Anwar correspondent Fathi Al-Masri was assaulted and his camera broken in Tripoli (02/08). Members of the Al-Borj police station forced blogger Abir Ghattas to delete an article she posted on her blog (02/05) and policemen prevented journalists and photographers from covering the teachers and labor unions’ sit-in in Hamra (02/25). Also, customs officers and members of the airport security asked to view footages taken by a New TV team after filming a report on the tourism sector (02/22). Libyan photographer Walid Mohammad arrived to Lebanon to cover the Arab Volleyball Championship; he was arrested at the airport and transferred to military court (le 01/02).

The Lebanese Dentists’ Association and the Lebanese Parliament websites were hacked. The dismissed staff of the publishing house Dar Alf Leila Wa Leila staged a sit-in in front of the Editors Association to claim their rights (02/25). A tragic incident also took place this month: Claudia Theophilus, a Malaysian journalist working for Al-Jazeera English was killed in Baakline by a Lebanese man whose rifle accidentally went off (02/02).

In March, several acts of physical violence were perpetrated against media professionals. Policemen beat journalists Qassem Qassem (03/20) and an unidentified person hit New TV correspondent Hassan Al-Jirah with a stick in the Beqaa valley (03/08). New TV teams were victims of three other consecutive attacks: the channel’s live broadcast vehicle was stolen and crew members were threatened (03/16). Another New TV crew was hit by stones at the entrance of Qasqas and cameraman Samir Asmar was injured in the back (03/17). Also, young protesters assaulted New TV correspondent Nawal Berri and broke another live broadcast vehicle in Corniche Al-Mazraa (03/18).

Comedian Joe Kodeih received SMS death theats (03/16), and unknown people posted on Facebook threats to kill writer Rami Olleik if he gave an interview to Future TV (03/20) about his book denouncing Hezbollah. Also, a LBCI crew was threatened at the entrance of Abra, in Sidon, and General Security detained Al-Arabiya correspondent, Mohammad Dughmosh for seven hours at the Beirut International Airport, because of a Free Syrian Army stamp on his passport (03/26).

The Criminal Investigations Department questioned journalist Maria Maalouf, following the lawsuit filed against her by Hezbollah security chief Wafic Safa (03/14). Also, members of the Ghobeiri police station questioned journalist Nada Ayoub, following the lawsuit filed against her by Al-Hadil magazine for slander, defamation and incitement of sectarian strife.

Furthermore, the Lebanese army prevented news channels from entering Abra to cover a protest by Sheikh Ahmad Al-Assir’s supporters (03/01). Policemen banned the Al-Zaim reality TV show participants from building a footbridge in Dora (03/08) and the shooting of a Syrian series was interrupted in Tripoli, as a result of a sit-in protesting the presence of pro-regime Syrian actor Doreid Laham (03/11).

In Syria, 13 journalists and citizen journalists were killed in January, a record since the beginning of the popular uprising.

Al-Dounia TV correspondent, Souhail Al-Ali, was killed in Rif Dimashq (01/04), citizen journalist Wissam Bourhan in the Zabadani region (01/06), citizen journalist Bassem Al-Zoabi in Daraa (01/14), Belgian-born French journalist Yves Debay in Aleppo (01/17), citizen journalist Moataz Mansour in Rif Dimashq (01/04), Al-Jazeera correspondent, Mohammad Al-Massalmeh, in Daraa (01/18), citizen journalist Amjad Al-Sioufi in Rif Dimashq (01/04), media office director at the local council of Maadamiyat Al-Sham, Khaled al-Khatib (01/04), as well as citizen journalists Munir Al-Namous in Rif Dimashq (01/18), Faisal Al-Bacha in the Al-Hasaka region (01/18) and Yasser Nadam in Rif Dimashq (01/02). Journalist Mohammad Abdel Rahman and his father were executed in Damascus by the pro-regime popular committees (01/25). Also the Syrian army killed citizen journalist Ahmad Al-Shehab in Rif Homs (01/15) and Russian correspondent Serguei Berezhnoy was injured in Rif Dimashq after being shot by a Free Syrian Army sniper (01/29).

Abductions and arrests of journalists by the rebels and pro-regime factions increased. The regime’s forces arrested writer Moufid Dayoub in Tartus (01/01) and Palestinian photographer Ali Fares in Damascus (01/29). Also, rebel groups arrested Orient TV correspondent Misaab Al-Hamadi in Hama (01/13) and the armed opposition abducted activist Haytham Hasso in Rass Al-Ayn (01/16). A criminal gang kidnapped Mexican journalist Temoris Grecko, Hungarian reporter Balint Szlanko and Spanish photographer Andoni Lubaki in northern Syria; they were released several hours later (01/23). Also, members of the armed forces and the Al-Nusra Front harassed foreign women journalists in Saraqeb and forced them to leave the city (01/23).

Violence in Syria reached yet another peak in February; 16 journalists, citizen journalists, writers and artists were killed, setting a new record.

Kurdish journalist Kamal Hanan was killed in Aleppo (02/01), journalist Abdel Latif Khodor in Rif Dimashq (02/02), journalist Louaï Daaboul at the Bab Al-Hawa border crossing (02/11), French photographer Olivier Voisin in Idlib (02/23), as well as citizen journalists Nabil Al-Naboulsi (02/02), Mohammad Al-Dahoun (02/08), Faruq Al-Nayef (02/10), Hamada Al-Khatib (02/12), Youssef Adel Al-Bakri (02/14), Mohammad Mohammad (02/15), Adnan Abou Abdo (02/19), Waël Hammoud (02/25) and Mohammad Al-Hamawi (02/17). Also, writer Omar Aziz died under torture (02/16), artist Ahmad Jomaa by a sniper’s bullets (02/07) and the famous comedian Yassin Bakoush, known as Yassino, was killed by a rocket that hit his car in Damascus (02/24). Photographer Nour Kelzi was injured (02/07) as were citizen journalists Mohannad Al-Najjar (02/28), Mohammad and Alaa Abi Zeid (02/23), Abu Abdel Rahman Al-Dirani (02/24) and Saleh Abu Bannun (02/04).

On the other hand, the Free Syria Brigade stormed two media centers in Aleppo and arrested the activists working there (02/14). Unknown people kidnapped artist Mohammad Fetyan (02/11) as well as the Aleppo media center correspondent Mohammad Ibn Halab (02/22). Also, the Syrian Electronic Army hacked the Twitter accounts of Agence France-Press (02/26) and Sky News Arabia (02/07).

Another 15 journalists, citizen journalists, writers and artists died in March: citizen journalists Abdallah Yassin in Aleppo (03/02), Mohammad Bachir Shakhakhiro (03/08) and Ghayass Abdel Jawad Ejnid (03/10) in Damascus, Usama Abdel Basset Taleb in Rif Homs (03/11), Ons Al-Batsh (03/13), Mahmud Natuf (03/14), Hamed Abu Yasser (03/27) and Amer Diab (03/29) in Rif Dimashq, Omar Suhail Balush in Latakia (03/16), Mohammad Ibrahim Al-Assimi in Daraa (03/28), photographer Ahmad Jomaa in Homs (03/07), Ahmad Khaled Shehade, editor in chief of the Enab Baladi newspaper, in Rif Dimashq (03/12), Adham Al-Hassan, Al-Turkman agency’s correspondent in Aleppo (03/31) and writer, actor and director Abdel Aziz Ahmad Al-Hulani in Homs (03/23).

Also, Reuters photographer in Damascus, Mohammad Al-Abdallah, was injured (03/07), as well as Orient TV correspondent in Damascus Nabil Al-Amir (03/18) and German ARD’s Jörg Armbruster in Aleppo (03/29). Citizen journalist Omar Al-Talawi was injured in Homs (03/10) and Mohammad Fawaz Al-Sharaa in Daraa (03/14).

The regime forces arrested the artist Tarek Abdel Hay for the third time since the beginning of the revolution in Syria (03/17) and musician Obeid Al-Youssef in Al-Hasaka (03/05). The Damas anti-terrorism court judge postponed the trial of the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression staff without specifying another date for the trial (03/28). Finally, the public telecommunication agency blocked access to the Swaidavoice website (03/02).

In Jordan, three violations were recorded on the media and cultural scene in January 2013: journalists covering the parliamentary elections faced many difficulties to report because of interference by security forces (01/23), the Jordanian security disrupted a workshop for journalists organized by the Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism (ARIJ) network (01/08), and the Jordanian authorities blocked access to several websites, in application of the new controversial Press and Publications Law (01/18).

In February, another three violations were identified: the Ro’ya TV correspondent, Youssef Al-Bustanji, was beaten with rifle butts by two members of the drug control unit (02/22), unknown people hacked the Twitter account of Jordan’s Foreign Affairs Minister (02/23), and the criminal court decided to continue the trial of Rola Al-Haroub (02/06), following a TV show she hosted on the JoSat channel, despite her election as a member of parliament.

In March, the Jordanian security forced Ahmad Abu Hamas, a correspondent for Radio Al-Balad, to erase photos he took with his mobile phone (03/04), the Jo24 website’s Facebook and YouTube pages were hacked (03/14) and MP Rola Al-Haroub asked to delete a video criticizing the Jordanian Parliament on YouTube (03/21).

In the Gaza Strip, the violations carried out by Hamas against journalists, particularly those affiliated with the Fatah movement, gained in scale in January. Hamas security services detained ten journalists under the pretext of wanting to “ask them questions about issues undermining security”; they were released after being questioned, beaten and subjected to bad treatment (01/28).

One of the bodyguards of Nabil Shaath, the Fatah External Relations Commissioner, beat photographer Mohammad Al-Zaanine and his fellow journalist Khaled Sabet (01/05); photographer Ashraf Abu Amrah was beaten by a participant in a rally organized by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (01/21), and journalist Younes Al-Najjar was injured at a Fatah rally, during which the press cards of several journalists were confiscated (01/04). Also, unknown people threatened journalist Hoda Naim after she published a photo and posted a comment on her Facebook page (01/04).

Three violations were identified in Gaza in February 2013. Hamas security services summoned journalist Hussein Karsou’ three times and questioned him about the relations he has with several persons in Ramallah (02/03). The Hamas police arrested a Falasteen Al-Yawm crew, under the pretext it did not have an authorization to film in the city of Rafah (02/27) and prevented Hizb At-Tahrir from publically screening a documentary on the Syrian revolution (02/01).

In March, a Palestinian policeman assaulted the Anadolu agency photographer, Metin Kaya (03/17) and the Hamas police summoned the vice-president of the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate (PJS), Tahsin Al-Astal, and writer Sami Al-Astal following the publication of articles they wrote criticizing the police’s work (03/02). Policemen also prevented journalist Sami Abu Salem from traveling, under the pretext that the government’s press office did not give him any authorization to leave the territory (03/04), as well as journalist Majed Abu Salameh, without giving any reason (03/17). Israeli authorities banned Tahsin Al-Astal, as well as PJS secretary, Youssef Al-Ostaz and six other journalists, from going to Ramallah (03/27). They also refused to grant Palestinian filmmaker Youssef Natil an authorization to participate in the documentary film festival in the West Bank (03/18).

Members of the Ezzeddin Al-Qassam brigades destroyed a part of the Al-Balakhiya archeological site, north of the Gaza Strip, in order to transform it into a military zone; it is considered as one of the most important archeological sites in the Middle East (03/15).

In the West Bank, Israeli violations against journalists, photographers, artists and activists considerably increased in January 2013. The Israeli army attacked the Bab Al-Shams village, installed by Palestinian activists east of occupied Jerusalem, on a land that is threatened to be seized by Israeli settlers. The army beat up dozens of journalists and activists, as well as artist Hafez Amr, the designer of the Bab Al-Shams logo. Israeli soldiers broke their cameras and chased them through rocky roads, to prevent them from covering the attack carried out against the village (01/13). Israeli forces repeated the attack two days later, assaulted seven journalists and arrested journalist Ahmad Barahmeh, who was covering the return of inhabitants to the village; he was released the next day (01/15). Israeli forces also assaulted Raya FM correspondent, Shadi Hatem, and prevented him from covering the evacuation process of inhabitants at gunpoint (01/21).

Furthermore, the correspondent of the Turkish news agency Anadolu, Qays Abou Samra, was hit by a grenade in the chest (01/25) and Israeli authorities detained journalist Inan Ajjawi at the Allenby Bridge without any legal justification.

The number of Israeli violations against Palestinian journalists increased in the West Bank in February, especially in regions where Israeli soldiers and young Palestinians clashed. Journalists Mohammad Dajjanah Abu Aisha and Shadi Hatem (02/15), as well as photographers Amer Abdeen (02/11), Samer Nazil (02/15), Joseph Hanzal (02/22), Yusri Al-Jamal and Abdel Hafiz Al-Hashlamoun (02/22) were attacked with rubber-coated bullets. Also, journalist Haroun Amayreh (02/02) and photographers Fadi Madi (02/21), Moaz Meshaal (02/02 and 02/15), Fadwa Al-Hadouli and Iyad Hamad (02/02) were injured; photographers Alaa Badarneh and Jaafar Ashtieh were also beaten (02/23).

Israeli forces arrested cartoonist Mohamad Sabaaneh and prevented his lawyer from visiting him (02/16). They also detained photojournalists Abdel Ghani Al-Natsheh and Nasser Al-Shouyoukhi, as well as journalists Mahmoud Hamamreh, Samer Hamad and Abdel Rahman Younes to prevent them from filming in the city of Bethlehem (02/09). Israeli forces also arrested photographer Hussam Abou Alan, who was covering developments in the Bab Al-Zawiya region (02/22) and banned photographer Abdel Rahim Al-Qawsini from covering clashes between Israeli soldiers and Nablus inhabitants (02/22). Moreover, they broke into the house of journalist Amin Abu Wardeh and questioned him (02/01) and Israeli authorities extended, for the fourth time, the administrative detention of journalist Amer Abu Arfeh, for a period of six months (02/05).

Internally, the Preventive Security Services (PSS) arrested journalist Mohammad Awad (02/19) after storming his house twice (02/07 and 02/10); the trial court of Ramallah extended his detention for a period of 15 days (02/22). PSS also summoned journalists Alaa Al-Tayti (02/07) and Khaldoun Al-Mazloum (02/26) for questioning and a hip-hop concert was canceled, following pressure exerted by the vice-governor of Tulkarem, PSS members and young Fatah members.

In March, Israeli soldiers opened fire on photographer Jihad Al-Qadi, who was hit by a bullet in the stomach; he had his spleen and a part of his liver removed (03/01). Israeli authorities arrested journalists Thamer Sabaaneh and Baker Atili (03/06), Tarek Abu Zeid (03/08), Hamza Al-Salaymeh (03/09), Walid Khaled (03/10), Abdel Aziz Nawfal (03/24), Mohammad Al-Laham and Abdel Hafiz Al-Hashlamun (03/30). They also extended the administrative detention of cartoonist Mohamad Sabaaneh for the third consecutive time (03/07) and prevented the University of Johannesburg’s Human rights center director, Salim Vali, from entering Palestinian territory.

On the local fron, journalist and filmmaker Tarek Al-Sarkaji was arrested, questioned and tortured (03/10). Also, journalist Mustafa Al-Khawaja and photographer Rami Abu Ramon were arrested while covering a sit-in of solidarity with the relatives of political prisoners (03/02) and the Palestinian police prevented photographer Sary Al-Awiwi from interviewing children who had been arrested by Israeli forces (03/20). Also, the police prevented several journalists from covering the visit of U.S. President Barack Obama to the Palestinian presidency headquarters in Ramallah (03/21). Additionally, a Ramallah court refused the request to release Mohammad Awad for the fourth consecutive time (03/07). Unknown people banned a Ro’ya TV crew from covering a pro-Syrian regime sit-in, south of Ramallah (03/16).

A Bethlehem court sentenced Al-Quds satellite channel correspondent Mahmud Hamamreh to one year of prison for insulting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and publishing false information (03/28). Abbas pardoned Hamamreh the next day.

In the 1948 Territories, Israeli police increased the scale of its violations on press and cultural freedom in January. It prevented media outlets from covering clashes in the Selwan neighborhood, (01/06). Also, the police banned journalists from covering the arrest of a Palestinian minister (01/24) and Israeli soldiers arrested scholar Mahmud Qarin (01/28).

A TF1 channel crew refused to cover a conference organized by the Likud, in protest against the humiliating inspection and body search carried on cameraman Jamil Qadmani (01/22).

In February, photographer Ahmad Siam was hit by a rubber-coated bullet in the knee (02/08). A week later, Israeli soldiers launched sound grenades on Siam and his colleague Majd Ghaith, causing them injuries and burns (02/15). Israeli police also detained TF1 photographer Jamil Qadmani (02/22).

Unknown people launched a grenade on journalist Hikmat Ghorra’s house (02/19) and the Al-Chams radio station received threats addressed to the station’s managers and to Knesset members Jamal Zahalkeh and Bassel Ghattas (02/13). Also, an arrest warrant was issued against young musician Omar Saad because he refused to enroll for the compulsory military service (02/12).

March was a harsh month for journalists in the 1948 Territories, particularly around the Al-Aqsa mosque. Photographer Ata Oueissat was injured while covering clashes between the police and Palestinian mosque-goers (03/08). Israeli policemen arrested photographer Mohammad Al-Fateh Abu Sneineh (03/29) and an Israeli security service arrested journalist Mahmud Abu Khdeir and banned him access to Jerusalem for a period of 50 days (03/07). Also, Israeli police hampered the work of journalists in the Damascus Gate - Bab Al-Amud (03/21) and arrested journalist Rabih Eid because he cut off President Obama during his speech (03/21). Israeli authorities banned journalist Abdel Latif Gheith from entering the West Bank for the fourth time (03/15), closed the Jerusalem Club and prevented the organization of educational forums there (03/07). Dozens of pro-Syrian regime youngsters assaulted an Al-Jazeera crew and its correspondent Elias Qarram in Sekhnine (03/30). Additionally, and a lawsuit was filed against journalist Hassan Abdel Halim for slander and defamation, following an article he published (03/05) critiquing a newly published book.

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