SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom - Samir Kassir Foundation

Freedom of Expression Violations in the Levant - August 2020

Saturday , 19 September 2020

A citizen journalist was killed in Syria while violations against journalists, photographers and activists covering the protests in Lebanon continued. As a result, 18 media professionals were injured, two TV crews prevented from covering developments on the ground, and a reporter banned from entering the presidential palace. Also, a song was censored while a minister’s brother threatened to set a TV station on fire and to attack its host. Several complaints were also filed against journalists, while both a publisher and a writer were questioned for political reasons. In Jordan, a journalist was beaten after being arrested, another one summoned and a cartoonist arrested for three days.

In the West Bank the Israeli forces arrested a photographer and the Preventive Security Service a filmmaker, while in the Gaza Strip the Hamas security arrested a correspondent after trying to abduct him. In the 1948 Territories, the Israeli police arrested a poet after raiding her apartment.

Below is a detailed summary of the violations that the SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom monitored by in the four countries.


In Lebanon, 18 media professionals were injured while covering the clashes in downtown Beirut. The riot police fired a rubber-coated bullet at Megaphone photographer Makram Al-Halabi, while members of the Lebanese army beat photographer Rita Kabalan and Al-Jazeera English correspondent Timour Azhari with rifle butts and sticks. Also, LBCI reporter Edmond Sassine, photographer Pierre Moussa, MTV cameraman Fadi Skaff and Al-Jadeed reporter Rachel Karam suffered teargas suffocation. The riot police attacked Newsgate members Stefano Rouhana, Pierre Boutros, Ronald Georgevich, Georges Maroun and Sarkis Kechichian twice with teargas. MTV cameraman Fadi Skaff, LBCI and Al-Jadeed reporters Edmond Sassine and Layal Bou Moussa were injured in the head after being hit with stones in front of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Ashrafieh. Amal Movement supporters beat An-Nahar correspondent Iskandar Khachacho; they also confiscated his phone and erased all the videos and photos he had taken (08/08). Photographers Mohammad Salman and Samir Abdelmasih were beaten in Karantina and Mar Mikhael respectively (08/15).

Also in August, army members detained an LBCI crew for two hours while they were covering the events inside the Beirut port (08/07) and hampered the work of Al-Araby TV in Bisri (08/02).

MTV reporter Nakhle Odaime was prevented from covering the parliamentary consultations at the presidential palace (08/31) and the famous patriotic song “Ya Beirut” was censored during a televised celebration of Lebanese Army Day (08/01). Also, Hezbollah’s Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah called on his supporters to boycott several Arab media outlets and threatened to cut off their broadcasts (08/29) while the brother of Minister of the Displaced Ghada Shreim threatened to set the MTV channel on fire and to attack TV host Marcel Ghanem (08/08). Moreover, MTV reporter Zeina Bassil was victim of a social media campaign (08/16) and the Criminal Investigation Department questioned the Sita Insitute website director Alwan Amineddine and writer Raed Al-Masri over a defamation complaint (08/03).

Speaker Nabih Berri filed a complaint against a number of journalists, including Riad Tawq and Dima Sadek, over incitement of hatred, slander and contempt (08/24), while former minister Gebran Bassil filed a lawsuit against Dima Sadek for spreading false news (08/25).


In Syria, unknown gunmen killed citizen journalist Rami Al-Khatib in Daraa (08/18) and the regime’s military intelligence arrested citizen journalist Walid Al-Rifai (08/18). In Idlib, the Tahrir al-Sham group arrested American journalist Bilal Abdul-Karim and prohibited work with Al-Aan TV, Al-Youm channel and the Step agency (08/23). Also, the Kurdish regional autonomous administration arrested a Rudaw Media Network crew in Qamishli (08/15) and citizen journalist Mahmoud Fawaz was sentenced to three months in prison in rural Aleppo (08/19).


In Jordan, the security services arrested journalist Khalil Kandil for two days (08/04); he was beaten and insulted during detention. The Cyber Crimes Unit summoned journalist Nidal Salama over a tweet then tied him to a chair and insulted him (08/05). His trial was also postponed twice. The public prosecutor ordered the Jordanian security forces to arrest cartoonist Emad Hajjaj for 14 days (08/27) because of a cartoon deemed offensive to the United Arab Emirates. He was released three days later, while the Royal Cultural Center director Muflih Al-Adwan resigned in protest against the government’s decision to merge the Center with the Ministry of Culture (08/18).


In the West Bank, the Israeli forces broke into the house of photographer Mosaab Al-Saeed and arrested him before taking him to an unknown destination (08/27). Also, the Preventive Security Service arrested filmmaker Abdul-Rahman Al-Daher in Nablus over a publication (08/17). A court extended his detention twice under the pretext of ongoing investigation and the Ma’an Satellite TV interrupted the shooting of “Kelmtein W Noss” over pressure to prevent a guest from participating in the show (08/27).


In the Gaza Strip, the Internal Security Agency tried to abduct Al-Ain news portal correspondent Amjad Arafat (08/09). He was questioned the next day and asked about his relationship with SKeyes’s correspondent in Gaza Mohammad Othman. A week later, he was detained again, beaten and insulted for two hours.


In the 1948 Territories, the Israeli police raided poet Rania Hatem’s house (08/26) and led her to a police station in Jerusalem over a Facebook post criticizing the Israeli Sovereignty Law application.

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