SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom - Samir Kassir Foundation

Freedom of Expression Violations in the Levant-April 2020 Report  

Friday , 22 May 2020
A citizen journalist died under torture in the Syrian regime’s prisons while four others were prevented from covering developments on the ground during the month of April 2020. In Lebanon, the security forces arrested a journalist and seven activists during a protest. They also questioned two activists over social media posts and two students were fired from the Lebanese University for the same reason. Also, unknown people destroyed two sculptures in Beirut’s Martyrs Square. In the 1948 Territories, the Israeli authorities questioned a journalist and confiscated another one’s press card. The Israeli military court sentenced a journalist to prison in the West Bank while the Palestinian security services arrested several media professionals, interrogated two journalists, suspended another one, and unlawfully blocked access to 52 pages and websites. In Gaza, the Hamas police arrested a TV crew and a defamation campaign was launched against two journalists. In Jordan, the security services arrested a TV channel owner and a journalist while a reporter was attacked on air.
 
Below is a detailed summary of the violations monitored by the SKeyes Center in the four countries.
 
In Lebanon, the security forces arrested journalist Mohammad Nazzal and activists Amer Harfouche, Ahmad Daeis, Daniel Abi Jomaa, Mohammad Jalous, Walid Rifai, Karen Helal and Khodor Anwar during a protest in Hamra (04/02) while the army intelligence arrested activist Michel Chamoun a day after summoning him over a Facebook video (04/15). Also, the Anti-Cybercrime and Intellectual Property Bureau questioned activist Gino Raidy because of a video he posted on Instagram related to Prime Minister Hassan Diab (04/11), and the Lebanese University fired two students over Facebook posts and deleted comments posted on its page (04/06). Also in April, unidentified individuals destroyed two handmade statues depicting the October 2019 Revolution by artist Pierre Abboud in Martyrs’ square (04/23).
 
Employees of Future TV channel and Al-Mustaqbal newspaper, both owned by former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, continued protesting to demand payment of benefits (04/28).
 
In Syria, citizen journalist Jihad Jamal died under torture in the regime’s prisons, eight years after his arrest (04/13) and the Kurdish autonomous administration prevented journalists Badrakhan Ahmad and Nazz Al Sayid from practicing their work in its sphere of influence, northeast of Syria (04/01). In addition, the Tahrir Sham group banned citizen journalists Ali Mustafa Hajj Sleiman and Youssef Ahmad Gharibi from covering developments near the town of Sarmin in the eastern countryside of Idlib (04/18).
 
In Jordan, the security forces arrested Roya TV general manager, Fares Al-Sayegh, and journalist Mohammad Al-Khalidi for 14 days over a news report (04/09) but the State Security Court released them on bail three days later. They also arrested Salim Akash, the Jordan correspondent of Bangla TV after he published a report tackling the suffering of foreign workers as a result of the COVID-19 related lockdown (04/14). A hospital director violently attacked Al-Balad­ radio host Rawan Al-Jayusi live on air (04/07) and the Jordanian Press Association denounced the government’s failure to support print press and warned against a “massacre” that threatens people working in the sector (04/16).
 
In the Gaza Strip, the Hamas police arrested Palestine TV crew members to prevent them from filming inside the Jabalia refugee camp (04/25), a smear campaign was launched against journalist Ahmad Said over a video tackling medical waste in Gaza (04/22), and journalist Hind Al-Khodri was victim of an Israeli incitement campaign following a Facebook post (04/10).
 
In the West Bank, the Palestinian military intelligence arrested photographer Mohammad Adkik (04/25) while the Preventive Security detained a journalism crew related to the local Jana NGO, confiscated their equipment and questioned reprter Yunis Al-Hasasneh (04/26). Also in April, An-Najah University issued a warning against academic Adnan Melhem over an opinion article (04/05) and journalist Yasmeen Kalbouneh who works for the Palestinian Ministry of Health press office was suspended following one of her publications (04/26). Moreover, Wafa news agency summoned journalists Jaafar Sadaqa and Rami Samara for questioning and suspended their pay because of Facebook posts (04/09). The access to 52 websites, blogs and Facebook pages is still blocked despite the expiry of the ban period imposed by the Ramallah Court (04/17). The Ofer Israeli military court sentenced journalist Sameh Al-Titi to six months in prison (04/29).
 
In the 1948 Territories, the Israeli police questioned journalist Christine Rinawi about her work with Palestine TV (04/16) while the Israeli government press office refused to grant journalist Hiba Masalha her press card for alleged security reasons (04/01).

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