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SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom - Samir Kassir Foundation

Freedom of Expression Violations in the Levant - December 2023

Monday , 22 January 2024

In December 2023, the Israeli army’s assaults on the Gaza Strip had a devastating impact on Palestinian journalists, photographers, artists, poets, and writers, resulting in a tragic toll. A staggering 54 media and culture professionals were killed, accompanied by the loss of dozens of their family members. Additionally, 11 were injured and four were arrested and subjected to torture and humiliation. The offensive also led to the destruction of 18 offices and headquarters belonging to media and cultural institutions. In parallel, more than 20 media professionals in the West Bank, five in the 1948 Territories, and a photographer in southern Lebanon’s border villages faced targeted Israeli attacks during the continuous military operations.

Here is a detailed summary of the violations documented by the SKeyes Center in Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan.

In the Gaza Strip, the Israeli army inflicted the highest casualty count on media professionals since the commencement of its war. The toll included 31 journalists, 11 photographers, seven artists, three poets, and two writers, along with their family members and the families of other journalists and photographers. Furthermore, 11 media and culture professionals sustained injuries from missiles fired by warplanes, drones, tanks, and sniper bullets.

The Israeli offensive claimed the lives of several journalists, including Adham Hassouna (12/01), journalist and Al-Aqsa University lecturer; Hassan Farjallah (12/02), host of the Al-Quds Today satellite channel show; Shaima Al-Jazzar (12/03), journalist for Majidat Rafah; Hamada Al-Yaziji (12/04), editor and fact-checker for the Kanaan agency; Ola Atallah (12/06), freelance journalist; Saïd Al-Shorbaji (12/07), freelance journalist; Abdul-Hamid Abdul-Ati (12/08), host of Al-Watan radio; Nermin Qawwas (12/08), freelance journalist; Duaa Al-Jabbour (12/09), freelance journalist; Ayman Jadallah (12/09), journalist for the Palestinian Ministry of Health media department; Mohammad Abu Samra (12/10), freelance sports journalist; Abdul-Karim Odeh (12/10), freelance journalist; Ahmad Abu Absa (12/12), dean of the University of Palestine Faculty of Media and Information Technology and journalist; Hanan Ayyad (12/12), freelance journalist; Ali Ashour (12/13), freelance journalist; Fathi Naji (12/13), former editor-in-chief of the Islamic University newspaper and professor; Rami Bdeir (12/15), correspondent for the New Press platform; Assem Kamal Mussa (12/16), journalist for Pal Time agency; Mishal Ayman Shahwan (12/16), freelance journalist; Haneen Al-Qatshan (12/17), freelance journalist; Abdullah Alwan (12/18), journalist for Al-Jazeera’s Midan platform; Hamza Al-Hams (12/18), freelance journalist; Adel Zorob (12/19), freelance journalist; Alaa Abu Muammar (12/20), freelance journalist; Rizk Urooq (12/21), journalist and former director of Al-Buraq radio; Ahmad Jamal Al-Madhoun (12/23), deputy director of Al-Rai agency and director of visual media department at the government media office; Mohammad Abu Huwaidi (12/23), correspondent for Al-Istiqlal daily; Mohammad Nassar (12/27), journalist and freelance economics writer; Jabr Abu Hadros (12/27), correspondent for Al-Quds Al-Youm satellite channel; Abdullah Hammad (12/29), freelance journalist; and Nermin Habboush (12/30), journalist at the Palestinian Youth Association for Leadership and Rights Activation (Pyalara).

Several other photographers and cultural figures also lost their lives, including Abdullah Darwish, cameraman for Al-Aqsa satellite channel; Moaz Zomlot, freelance cameraman; Montaser Al-Sawaf, photographer for the Turkish Anadolu agency, and his brother Marwan Al-Sawaf (12/01); Mohammad Farjallah, freelance cameraman (12/02); Mahmoud Salem, photographer for the Civil Defense (12/03); Abdul-Hamid Al-Qraynawi, freelance sports photographer (12/04); Samer Abu Daqqa, cameraman for Al-Jazeera (12/15); Mohammad Khalifa, cameraman and director for Al-Aqsa satellite channel (12/22); Mohammad Al-Aaf, photographer for Al-Rai Agency (12/23); and Ahmad Khaireddeen, cameraman for Al-Quds Al-Youm satellite channel (12/27). Writers Nour Hajjaj (12/02) and Ahmad Al-Farra (12/08), along with poets Refaat Alareer (12/06), Salim Al-Naffar (12/07), and Mona Shamali (12/09), were also killed. Artists Amr Marwan (12/08), Ghazi Talib, Mohammad Abu Naji (12/09), Mohammad Khattab Al-Zaqzouq (12/17), Mohammad Al-Selek (12/22), Ahed Abu Hamida (12/23), and Harith Al-Barrawi (12/27) also lost their lives due to the Israeli assaults.

Throughout December 2023, numerous media professionals faced injury amid the ongoing Israeli offensive. Freelance journalist Alaa Al-Hams (12/03), Al-Mashhad satellite channel correspondent Mohammad Baalousha, Palestine TV journalist and director Ashraf Harara, Al-Jazeera channel bureau chief in the Gaza Strip Wael Al-Dahdouh (12/15), freelance journalist Ashraf Ramadan (12/18), Al-Aqsa satellite channel news department host and director Islam Badr, Event media production company photographer Mohammad Ahmad (12/19), Al-Manara TV production company broadcast engineer Moaz Al-Hams (12/20), Al-Ghad satellite channel journalist Hamza Hammad (12/25), and freelance journalist Hussein Jaber (12/29) were among those injured. Al-Ghad satellite channel correspondent Mahmoud Alloh suffered from phosphorus and smoke suffocation (12/26).

The Israeli shelling also left destruction in its wake, targeting several media and cultural institutions’ offices and headquarters. Notable casualties included Theatre Days Productions (12/12), Al-Jazeera (12/10), Palestine Today (12/18), Al-Manar, Al-Kawthar (12/19), Al-Istiqlal newspaper, Safa news agency, as well as Al-Quds, Al-Asra, Al-Aqsa Mubasher, and Al-Rai station (12/19). Additionally, the headquarters of the General Union of Palestinian Artists (12/05), Al-Quds Al-Youm, the Journalist Support Committee, Alwaha Media Television Production Company (12/19), and the Al-Aqsa media network, including Al-Aqsa satellite TV and Sawt Al-Aqsa radio station (12/23), were demolished. The house of Al-Jazeera Mubasher correspondent Mohammad Shaheen (12/26) was destroyed a day after his equipment suffered the same fate. The Nawa Association for Culture and Arts headquarters also sustained partial damage (12/31).

Adding to the turmoil, the Israeli army detained several media professionals, including Al-Rai agency photographer Alaa Al-Sarraj (12/01), Al-Araby Al-Jadeed newspaper bureau chief Diaa Al-Kahlout (12/07), freelance journalist Saëd Hassouna (12/10), and freelance sports photographer Said Al-Kilani (12/12), who were subjected to physical abuse. Furthermore, Israel hacked the waves of Voice of Palestine radio, broadcasting threatening messages to Gaza residents on (12/30).

In the West Bank, the Israeli forces fired teargas at media crews, including the Chinese Xinhua Agency, the Jordanian Roya channel and correspondent Mohammad Abed. The Reuters correspondent Raneen Sawafta was injured in the face after being hit by a teargas grenade, while freelance photographer Amr Bassem Saleh Munasara was injured with a similar bomb in his neck (12/12). They also fired lived bullets at reporters Karim Khamaysa (12/01), Mohammad Abed, Shaza Hanaysha, and Ranin Sawafta (12/13), photographers Youssef Odeh, Mohammad Awad (12/01), Issam Al-Rimawi, Laith Jaar, and Tariq Al-Sarkji (12/13). Meanwhile, freelance photographer Ramez Awad was injured by a bullet in his thigh (12/18). Furthermore, the Israeli forces severely beat the Al-Jazeera channel crew – correspondent Montaser Nasr and photographer Ahmed Amr (12/29) – and arrested journalists Ayman Dawoud Rabayaa (12/05), Hatem Hamdan (12/16), Mohammad Al-Rimawi (12/22), Adeeb Barakat Al-Atrash, and Hamad Taqatqa (12/26). The Israeli Ofer Court sentenced freelance journalist Ikhlas Sawalha to six months in administrative detention (12/19).

In the West Bank, Israeli forces deployed tear gas against media crews, including the Chinese Xinhua Agency, the Jordanian Roya channel, and correspondent Mohammad Abed. Reuters correspondent Raneen Sawafta suffered a facial injury from a tear gas grenade, while freelance photographer Amr Bassem Saleh Munasra sustained a similar injury to his neck (12/12). Live bullets were also fired at reporters Karim Khamaysa (12/01), Mohammad Abed, Shaza Hanaysha, and Ranin Sawafta (12/13), as well as photographers Youssef Odeh, Mohammad Awad (12/01), Issam Al-Rimawi, Laith Jaar, and Tariq Al-Sarkji (12/13). Freelance photographer Ramez Awad was further injured by a bullet in his thigh (12/18). The Al-Jazeera channel crew, comprising correspondent Montasser Nasr and cameraman Ahmed Amr, were severely beaten (12/29), while journalists Ayman Dawoud Rabayaa (12/05), Hatem Hamdan (12/16), Mohammad Al-Rimawi (12/22), Adeeb Barakat Al-Atrash, and Hamad Taqatqa (12/26) were arrested. Freelance journalist Ikhlas Sawalha received a six-month administrative detention sentence from the Israeli Ofer Court (12/19).

In the 1948 Territories, Israeli attacks on Palestinian journalists persisted in December 2023. The Turkish Anadolu channel cameraman, Mustafa Al-Kharouf, was severely beaten (12/15), and the Al-Ghad channel crew – correspondent Iman Jabour and cameraman Mohammad Asho – were arrested (12/14). Freelance journalist Rama Youssef was barred from entering the Old City (12/07), and Al-Bawsala and Al-Sahira networks correspondent Ramzi Al-Abbasi faced police questioning about his journalistic work (12/06). The ban on Al-Mayadeen channel inside Palestinian territories was extended for 30 days (12/13).

In Lebanon, Israeli attacks on southern border villages continued. Al-Manar cameraman Khader Marquez was injured in the eye after an Israeli shell fell near the channel’s team, including correspondent Ali Shuaib (12/23). Lebanese General Security detained Courrier International journalist Bashir Khoury at Beirut International Airport and questioned him twice, one at the airport (12/20) and two days later at the General Security headquarters (12/22). The Beirut criminal court sentenced freelance journalist Lynn Tehini to a month in prison, replaced with a fine, over a publication alleging mismanagement at the National Music Conservatoire (12/27).

In Syria, violations occurred mainly in opposition-controlled areas in the northwest. Security forces beat citizen journalists Faris Zain Al-Abidin, Mohammad Haroun, Mulaz Al-Homsi, Nizar Abu Ayman, Himam Al-Zein, and Ameen Al-Ali in the northern countryside of Aleppo’s city of Al-Rai (12/18). Tahrir Al-Sham group arrested citizen journalist Adnan Al-Imam, forcing him to sign a pledge not to practice his profession before releasing him (12/04).

In Jordan, the X platform shut down the Al-Ghad newspaper account for 24 hours (12/09) for sharing an article reported by the military media of the Hamas-affiliated Al-Qassam Brigades about clashes with the Israeli army in Gaza.

This report is published with the support of:

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