SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom - Samir Kassir Foundation

Freedom of Expression Violations in the Levant - August 2022

Wednesday , 21 September 2022
Design: Mahmoud Younis

Two crimes marked the media and cultural scene during the month of August 2022. The first one is the murder of Syrian citizen journalist Ahmad Al-Khatib under torture in the regime’s prison, while the second is the killing of Palestinian artist Duniana Al-Amour during the Israeli shelling of Gaza.      

 

Journalists received threats in Lebanon and several media offices were shelled in Gaza. Additionally, the Israeli forces stormed into human rights and civil organisations in the West Bank, seized their belongings, and shut them down.

 

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

In Lebanon, Hezbollah supporters assaulted freelance photographer Hasan Shaaban and threatened to kill him after he filmed the protests against water shortages in Beit Yahoun, his hometown (08/03). Shaabam found a bullet stuck to his car window the next day, and one of his car tires was punctured with a threatening note (08/15). Journalist Dima Sadek was victim of a smear campaign and received death threats after she attacked Qassem Suleimani and Ayatollah Khomeini on Twitter. Moreover, Asas Media website director, Mohammad Barakat, was victim of a similar campaign on social media, following a TV interview where he criticised the speech of Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah (08/13).

Also this month, unknown people tried to intercept the car of freelance journalist Tarek Abu Zeinab and insulted him because of his political stances (08/17), while Solidere security agents prevented members of the Sky News team – reporter Salman Andari and photographer Naji Hamzeh – from filming under the pretext that they did not obtain prior permission (08/30). Also, artist Ziad Bourji received death threats over a song (08/16) and the Web Event agency had to move a festival organised at the Saida waterfront to an indoor venue near the city of Alman, after it received threats from Islamic religious leaders (08/14). Furthermore, the Supervisory Commission for Elections referred 592 different media outlets to the Publications Court over “violations related to the 2022 parliamentary eligibility” (08/03).

In Syria, citizen journalist Ahmad Al-Khatib was killed under torture in Sednaya, a military prison affiliated with the Syrian regime (08/16). The armed opposition forces were responsible for other violations. Members of the civil police in Al-Bab, a city located in Aleppo’s eastern countryside attacked citizen journalists Badr Taleb, Malek Al-Khubai, Mohammad Al-Sibai, Himam Abu Al-Zein, Nizar Abu Ayman, Imad Al-Basiri, and Malek Abu Obeida (08/01). Meanwhile, the military police arrested a member of the Syrian Media Union, activist Louay Younis, in Afrin’s Jindires, north of Aleppo, for three days (08/05). Also, the Syrian Democratic Forces arrested Rudaw network correspondent Barzan Ferman in Qamishli (08/02) and citizen journalist Ali Al-Krayem in Deir Ez-Zor (08/23).

In Jordan, the security services arrested writer Adnan Al-Rousan for a week over articles in which he criticised the King’s policy (08/15) and a judge refused to release him on bail (08/24). As for the Jordan Media Commission, it blocked access to the Milhilard website and refused to license it. The Public Prosecutor in Zarqa decided to ban publishing in the case of a fire in the governorate’s hospital (08/03).

In the West Bank, the Israeli forces opened fire on the Shabab FM station in Nablus (08/09). They also targeted Palestine TV cameraman Fadi Yassin (08/19 and 08/26), European Pressphoto Agency photographer, Alaa Toufic Badarneh, AFP photographer Jaafar Ashtieh, and freelance photographer Nidal Ashtieh (08/26). Moreover, they arrested journalist Ibrahim Abu Safieh at his home (08/06) and prevented journalist Ayman Kawarik from travelling without giving any reasons (08/21). The Israeli forces also stormed into the headquarters of Al-Haq, Addameer, Bisan Center for Research and Development, Defense for Children International-Palestine, the Union of Agricultural Work Committees, the Union of Palestinian Women Committees, and the Union of Press Work Committees. They seized the properties of these organisations and issued military orders to shut them down completely, while closing several ones with sheet metal (08/18). Three days later, the Israeli intelligence questioned the Defense for Children International-Palestine director Khaled Kuzmar and summoned Al-Haq director Shaaban Jabareen.

On the internal front, the Palestinian intelligence arrested Pal Post website correspondent and photographer Mujahid Tabnaje for three days in Nablus (08/12). He was released after being questioned about his media work, beaten, and tortured. An unknown person threatened the Abdul-Mohsen Qattan Foundation to prevent it from holding a musical event with Palestinian artist Jowan Safadi in its Ramallah centre (08/04).

In the Gaza Strip, the Israeli forces killed artist Duniana Al-Amour after bombing her house in the eastern part of Khan Yunis (08/05). Journalist Nahed Abu Harbid was injured after the warplanes shelled her house in Beit Hanun (08/07). The bombing of the Palestine Tower caused considerable damage to media offices, such as Shehab News agency, Event photography agency, Gaza FM and Al-Quran Al-Karim radio stations, Alayam newspaper, Media Group TV production company, and the Youth Media Center (08/05).


WhatsApp, Facebook, and TikTok blocked the accounts of dozens of Palestinian journalists in Gaza after they published photos and videos of the Israeli aggression, under the pretext of violating the publication standards. Among these media professionals are freelance journalist Osama Al-Kahlut (08/02), CCTV channel camerman Osama Al-Aashi, freelance journalist Salah Skeik (08/07), Alkofia channel presenter Sally Thabet, Al-Resalah newspaper journalist and novelist Rasha Farhat, Al-Ahram Weekly correspondent Mohammad Abu Shear, freelance journalist Yunis Abu Jabal, writer Nesma Al-Harazin, novelist Samaher Al-Khaznadar (08/09 and 08/10), Palestine Today satellite channel presenter Ibrahim Ibrahim (08/12), freelance journalist Omar Abu Nada (08/17), and Watan station program director and broadcaster Abdul-Hamid Abdul-Ati (08/28).

Furthermore, the Hamas-affiliated security services summoned journalist Ahmad Said over Facebook posts in which he criticised the Ministry of Health (08/01) and journalist Hani Abu Rizk because of a picture (08/11).

In the 1948 Territories, the Israeli police assaulted Al-Mayadeen channel cameraman, Mohammad Aasho, freelance photographer Mohammad Al-Sharif, Palestine TV correspondent Layali Eid, AFP photographer Ahmad Gharabli, and freelance photographer Ghassan Abu Eid (08/07). The Ofer military court confirmed the six-month administrative detention verdict against freelance photographer Faisal Al-Rifai (08/03). Facebook blocked the account of Palestinian artist Dalal Abu Amneh after she published a video about Palestinian writer Ghassan Kanafani (08/07).

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