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SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom - Samir Kassir Foundation

Freedom of Expression Violations in the Levant - May 2024

Monday , 24 June 2024

The Israeli army continued its assault on the Gaza Strip, resulting in the killing of dozens of Palestinian civilians, including a photographer, a radio host and five journalists, and injured three others. Israeli violations also targeted eight media professionals in the Gaza Strip, fourteen in the West Bank, and twelve in the 1948 Territories. In Jordan, the Amman Public Prosecutor sentenced a journalist to prison and rejected repeatedly her requests for release. In a scandalous decision, the Lebanese government reversed its move to authorise the International Criminal Court to investigate the killing by Israel of Reuters photographer, Issam Abdallah.

Below is a detailed summary of the violations monitored by the Samir Kassir Foundation’s SKeyes Center in Palestine, Lebanon, Jordan, and Syria.

In the Gaza Strip, the Israeli army continued its deadly operations against Palestinian civilians throughout May. This resulted in the killing of numerous journalists and photographers, along with their family members, either while they were covering the attacks or even off duty in their own homes. Freelance photographer Mustafa Ayyad (05/06), Pal Post network journalist Mahmud Jahjouh (05/16), Sawt Al-Watan radio host, Ola Al-Dahdouh (05/31), and journalists Bahaa Akasha (05/11), Hael Al-Najjar (05/15), Mohammad Al-Hawbe (05/17), and Abdullah Al-Najjar (05/18) were killed. Sky News correspondent Hazem Al-Banna (05/09), freelance journalist Mahmoud Abu Salameh (05/24), and freelance journalist Mahmoud Al-Jamal (05/28) were injured.

Israeli warplanes also destroyed the homes of Al-Jazeera correspondent Anas Al-Sharif (05/11), journalists Hassan Slayyeh (05/04), Wasaed Nabhan (05/10), and Doa Shaheen (05/19) during airstrikes and artillery shelling on the Gaza Strip. Additionally, the Israeli army threatened Al-Araby TV correspondent Islam Badr and freelance journalist Hossam Shbat, forcing them leave the Jabalia camp (05/14). The army confiscated the assets of freelance journalist Mohammad Al-Hajjar and his family after detaining his wife for several hours (05/02). An Israeli drone targeted correspondent Anas Al-Sharif and freelance journalist Mahmoud Abu Salama while they were covering the operations in Jabalia, fortunately without causing injuries (05/15).

In the West Bank, Israeli forces targeted several media professionals with live ammunition. The Al-Araby TV crew – cameraman Rabih Al-Munayyer and correspondent Amid Shehada –(05/04), photographers Mohammad Atiq, Jirah Khalaf, Obada Tahayneh, and Amr Munasra (05/21), the Al-Jazeera crew – correspondent Laith Jaar and cameraman Ayman Aliawi – (05/23), and Al-Fajr al-Jadid TV correspondent Mohammad Nazzal (05/09) were attacked while covering the Israeli raids on several neighbourhoods in the Gaza Strip. The Israeli forces also arrested photographer Mahmoud Al-Maatan (05/20), journalist and writer Mahmoud Al-Fatafta (05/29), and journalist Bilal Al-Tawil (05/29). They detained Al-Quds daily photographer Ali Al-Saudi for half an hour (05/23) and confiscated the camera of Palestine TV cameraman Thaer Faquse, forcing him to delete his pictures before returning it (05/19).

Bethlehem Palestinian intelligence questioned Al-Jazeera Mubasher journalist Khalil Zuaib about his journalistic work (05/15).

In the 1948 Territories, the Israeli police, in conjunction with border guards, settlers, and undercover agents, obstructed the work of Palestinian journalists and photographers throughout May. An extremist settler hindered Al-Jazeera correspondent Fatima Khmayseh (05/04), while the police arrested the Al-Araby TV crew – cameraman Ali Diwani and correspondent Ahmad Darawsheh – to prevent them from covering events (05/11). The police also blocked the Aljarmak agency correspondent Karen Al-Bash, Al-Madina newspaper correspondent Rashad Omri, and Anadolu channel correspondent Samir Abdul-Hadi (05/27) from performing their duties. Artist Rana Beshara was arrested while participating in a protest in Haifa (05/27). Border guards banned Al-Assima news agency correspondent Nadine Jaafar from filming and threatened her during her coverage of the events in Jerusalem (05/17). An undercover agent jostled journalist Mustafa Zaabi to prevent him from covering events in Haifa (05/30).

The Israeli government shut down the Al-Jazeera office in Israel (05/05) after the Knesset passed a law granting the government temporary powers to prevent foreign news networks from operating if deemed a national security threat. Al-Jazeera correspondent Hassan Massoud was denied entry to Israel via the King Hussein bridge crossing (05/06). Additionally, Israeli authorities confiscated the camera and broadcasting equipment of the Associated Press in the Gaza envelope, cutting off the live broadcast under the pretext that the agency was providing Al-Jazeera with live broadcast images. However, this decision was later reversed (05/21).

The Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court sentenced freelance journalist Hamza Khodor to one month in prison and a fine for entering the country without a permit (05/01), and extended the detention of freelance journalist Saïd Rokon twice over Facebook posts (05/12).

In Lebanon, the government has reversed a move to authorise the International Criminal Court to investigate the murder of Reuters photographer, Issam Abdallah (05/28) – a flagrant violation of the media and cultural scene. Stand-up comedian Shaden Fakih faced a smear campaign on social media after the leak of a video in which she mocks Muslim clerics (05/08). The following day, Dar Al-Fatwa filed a complaint against her.

In Jordan, the Amman Public Prosecutor sentenced journalist Heba Abu Taha to a week in prison over an investigative report (05/14). Eight days later, the Amman Magistrate’s Court extended her detention for another week and again refused her release her on bail. Syrian journalist Atia Abu Salah went on a hunger strike at the Marka prison (05/15), after which the prison administration withheld medical care. Eight days later, Abu Salah ended the hunger strike following the authorities’ promise of release. The Jordanian authorities cancelled the decision to deport him and freed him six days later. Journalist Khair Al-Jabiri was found not guilty in a defamation case by the North Amman Court (05/07).

The Anti-Cybercrime Unit summoned journalist Rida Yassin over a publication, questioned him, and detained him for two days (05/05). Jordanian security also arrested Palestinian journalist Israa Al-Sheikh at the airport over posts (05/06), and shut down the Al-Yarmouk satellite channel, confiscating its equipment (05/07).

No violations were recorded in the media and cultural scene in Syria during May.

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