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SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom - Samir Kassir Foundation

Freedom of Expression Violations in the Levant - April 2021

Monday , 24 May 2021

The Israeli forces continued their violations against Palestinian journalists and photographers during the month of April. Five Palestinian media professionals were injured after being sprayed with teargas, while two journalists and a writer were arrested in the West Bank. Israeli police officers fired a stun grenade at a photographer and a rubber-coated bullet at his colleague. They also assaulted a media professional and prevented two others from covering developments in the 1948 Territories. Hamas security agents insulted a female journalist and beat her. They also hit another journalist before arresting him and questioned a third one. In the West Bank, the Palestinian Authority hacked the accounts of several journalists and activists in Palestine and abroad.

In Syria, a citizen journalist survived an assassination attempt while four others were arrested. A correspondent was detained and three journalists prevented from conducting their work. In Lebanon, the supporters of two judges assaulted a reporter and a photographer, while the security services questioned a journalist and two activists. They also summoned a journalist and surrounded a director’s house after he refused to comply with the summons. Furthermore, a report was prevented from reporting developments, while a journalist and a television channel were convicted on various charges. In Jordan, a journalist was arrested and deported back to his country, while the authorities banned reporting about Prince Hamzah’s case and cancelled a local television show.

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

In Lebanon, supporters of rival judges Ghassan Oueidat and Ghada Aoun beat An-nahar photographer Marc Fayad and MTV correspondent Joyce Akiki (04/19), while the ISF investigation bureau in the Verdun area interrogated Embrace communications director Hiba Dandachli and activist Nisrine Chahine (04/13) over defamation charges. Also, the Mount Lebanon Intelligence Services questioned artist Elie Massaad because of a song (04/09) and the ISF's Intelligence Unit summoned journalist Michel Kanbour without giving him a reason but he failed to show up. Moreover, the security forces surrounded the house of television director Charbel Khalil after he refused to comply with a summons (04/20) and judge Ghada Aoun filed a complaint against journalist Dima Sadek and MTV for inciting sectarian strife and verbally abusing President Michel Aoun (04/01), while reporter Rabih Chantaf, working for the Bahaa Hariri-owned Sawt Beirut International was prevented from covering a press conference in Beit Al-Wasat, i.e., Saad Hariri's residence (04/07).

In Syria, Tahrir Al-Sham militant group arrested citizen journalists Khaled Hassino (04/05) and Amer Al-Assi (04/17), as well as civic activist Mohammad Al-Zein (04/07) in Idlib and citizen journalist Mohammad Alameddine Al-Sabbagh in the western countryside of Aleppo (04/10). Also, Kurdish Asayish security forces arrested Syria TV correspondent Fadel Hammad in Qamishli and released him upon Russian intervention (04/24). They also prevented journalists Massoud Hammad, Hebar Othman and Vivian Fattah from covering developments in the same city (04/22). Citizen journalist Khaled Al-Homsi survived an assassination attempt after unknown gunmen opened fire on him near the city of Al-Bab in the countryside of Aleppo.

In Jordan, the authorities banned reporting about Prince Hamzah’s case and the feud within the royal family. The next day, Amman’s Attorney General Hasan Al-Abdallat reconsidered the decision and allowed reporting “within the framework of the law and liability provisions”. However, this did not prevent Jordan TV from cancelling “Oum El Darahem”, a local show, under the pretext that it provided political content linked to Prince Hamzah’s case (04/13). The Jordanian security arrested Egyptian journalist Hassan Al-Banna at the Queen Alia International Airport and deported him back to his country (04/18).

In the West Bank, the Israeli forces attacked correspondents Khaled Bdeir (04/23; 04/24), Hafez Abu Sabra, Mahmud Matar and Tarek Youssef, as well as photographer Hazem Nasser with teargas in Nablus and Tulkarem (04/24). They also arrested journalist Mohammad Atiq and writer Mufeed Jalghum at a checkpoint near Jerusalem (04/23), as well as journalist Alaa Al-Rimawi after raiding his house in Ramallah (04/21). A week later, the Ofer military court sentenced Al-Rimawi to 45 days of administrative detention. Facebook also revealed that the Palestinian security services hacked the accounts of several Palestinian journalists and activists in Palestine and other countries (04/21).

In the Gaza Strip, a Hamas field officer insulted and assaulted journalist Rawa Morshed who was filming a report in the eastern part of the Gaza Strip (04/25) while Hamas policemen beat journalist Sami Al-Jaabari and detained him for several hours on charges of calling for pro-Jerusalem protests (04/26). Also, the cybercrime division questioned journalist Sakher Abou Al-Aoun over a post in which he criticised medical negligence (04/29).

In the 1948 Territories, the Israeli police continued its violations against Palestinian media professionals. Photographer Mahmud Alyan suffered severe burns after being hit with a stun grenade (04/08) while cameraman Rajai Al-Khatib was injured with a rubber-coated bullet then beaten (04/22). The police also beat freelance photographer Wehbe Makyeh (04/24), prevented a press conference from taking place after expelling the journalists (04/17) and continued seizing journalist Mona Al-Qawasmi’s phone (04/05).

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