SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom - Samir Kassir Foundation

Press and Cultural Freedom Violations in the Levant-December 2019

Monday , 20 January 2020
During the protests in Lebanon, the Army, the security forces, and supporters of both Hezbollah and the Future Movement carried out violations against media professionals. They beat six of them, threw stones at four others, prevented three journalists from covering the events and broke their equipment, insulted and harassed three media professionals and sprayed four others with tear gas. Also, photos were confiscated from an exhibition, a cultural event was banned, five activists and two journalists were questioned, while an activist and a Syrian journalist and photographer were summoned for questioning. In addition, a journalist was fired for organising a strike over unpaid wages, the Twitter accounts of journalists and activists supporting the protest movement were blocked and an arrest warrant was issued against an academic. In Gaza, the Israeli forces fired a rubber-coated bullet at a photographer and arrested two journalists in the West Bank, while the Israeli police arrested four journalists in the 1948 Territories, prevented a journalist from going live on air and banned another from working. Meanwhile, the Hamas court sentenced an artist to prison in Gaza and a West Bank university cancelled a play because the clothes of the actress were deemed indecent. Also, Tahrir Al-Sham group arrested seven citizen journalists near the Syrian-Turkish border and, in Jordan, two media institutions were shut down, while a series was suspended and the accounts of a journalist and several opposition figures blocked.

Below is a detailed summary of the violations monitored by the SKeyes Center in the four countries.

In Lebanon, the Army, the security forces, the riot police and supporters of both Hezbollah and the Future Movement carried out violations against media professionals. They beat six of them, threw stones at four others, prevented three journalists from covering the events before breaking their equipment, insulted and harassed three media professionals and sprayed four others with tear gas.
Also, the Lebanese Army Intelligence confiscated four pictures documenting the attacks carried out by the army against protesters. The pictures, taken by freelance photographer Ratib Safadi, were exhibited in Sidon’s Elia square (12/20). Pro-Hezbollah and far-left protesters prevented people from holding a panel inside a tent near Lazarieh Square in downtown Beirut after one of the panelists used the world “Israel” (12/10) and set the tent on fire the next day. On the other hand, the Anti-Cybercrime and Intellectual Property Bureau questioned activists Mohammad Al-Hajj, Zaki Chakar, Youssef Assi and Nehmat Badreddine (12/02), as well as filmmaker Rabih Al-Ameen (12/30) over Facebook posts; they also summoned journalist Nidal Ayoub (12/30). In addition, the General Security questioned a cameraman and a journalist, both Syrians, and made them sign a pledge in which they pledged not to cover popular uprisings in Lebanon (12/16). The Public Prosecutor questioned correspondents Adam Chamseddine and Rawand Abu Khozam in a complaint filed against them by Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri and his wife (12/05). Moreover, the public prosecution issued an arrest warrant against senior scholar researcher Issam Khalifé in the complaint filed against him by the rector of the Lebanese University, Fouad Ayoub (12/31). The Twitter accounts of several pro-revolution journalists and activists were blocked (12/15) and The Daily Star terminated journalist Benjamin Redd without warning because of the newspaper’s “financial situation” (12/05) after he had organised a strike to protest against the long delays in paying the salaries of the newspaper’s staff.

In Syria, Tahrir Al-Sham arrested seven citizen journalists while they were covering a protest near the Bab Al-Hawa border crossing north of Idlib (12/20). The militant group members assulated Ons Trayssi, Hafez Turman, Mustafa Dahnun, Adnan Faisal Al-Imam, Mohammad Al-Said and Aref Watab before confiscating their equipment and releasing them shortly after. One of the detainees, Mohammad Taher Al-Mustafa was kept overnight and released the next day.

In Jordan, Al-Ordon Al-Yoom TV owner, Mohammad Fakhri Al-Ajlouni, informed the employees of his decision to shut down the channel without giving any reasons (12/22) and Assabeel newspaper management announced the end of the print edition and the beginning of its digital transition for financial reasons (12/30). Also, the Royal Film Commission asked Netflix not to broadcast the series “Messiah,” which was shot in Jordan, under the pretext that the content of the series can be seen or interpreted as incompatible with the sanctity of religions, and thus may violate the laws in the country (12/30). The social media accounts of several media, political and opposition figures were blocked, including that of SKeyes correspondent Ghada Al-Sheikh (12/15).

In the Gaza Strip, Israeli forces shot photographer Thaer Abu Riache with a rubber-coated bullet while he was covering the return marches (12/20), the Hamas-led military court in Gaza sentenced comedian Adel Al-Mashoukhi to 18 months in prison on various charges (12/26) and the Khan Yunis court postponed the trial of journalist Ihab Fasfus on charges of Internet misuse for the fifth time (12/02).

In the West Bank, Israeli forces arrested Alam radio station correspondent Sameh al-Titi (12/09) and freelance journalist Bouchra Tawil (12/11) at their respective homes without mentioning the reasons. Internally, An-Najah National University interrupted the “Enheduanna” play, which was being performed in its theatre, because of the way actress Ashtar Muallem was dressed (12/10); and the Ramallah Magistrate Court has once again postponed the trial of Al-Araby Al-Jadeed newspaper journalists after the paper’s office was shut down (12/08).

In the West Bank, Israeli forces arrested Alam radio station correspondent Sameh al-Titi (12/09) and freelance journalist Bouchra Tawil (12/11) at their respective homes without mentioning the reasons.

Internally, An-Najah National University interrupted the “Enheduanna” play, which was being performed in its theatre, because of the way actress Ashtar Muallem was dressed (12/10); and the Ramallah Magistrate Court has once again postponed the trial of Al-Araby Al-Jadeed newspaper journalists after the paper’s office was shut down (12/08).

In the 1948 Territories, the Israeli police and intelligence services arrested a Palestine TV crew, including journalists Amir Abed Rabbo, Dana Abu Chamsiye, Christine Rimawi and Ali Yassine under the pretext that they violated the decision to close the TV in Jerusalem; they were released several hours later on bail (12/06). Also, Mustafa Al-Kharouf was subjected to Israel’s discriminatory policy over temporary visa and inability to practice his journalistic work (12/06). Finally, Facebook prevented journalist Diala Jweihan from using the live-streaming service under the pretext of jeopardizing her own security (12/01).

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