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SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom - Samir Kassir Foundation

Freedom of Expression Violations in the Levant - June 2023

Monday , 24 July 2023

During the month of June 2023, Israeli forces carried out attacks on eight Palestinian media professionals in the West Bank, using live ammunition and causing injuries, with one person being injured in the waist. Additionally, two journalists were prevented from covering local developments in the 1948 Territories, and a correspondent was targeted with a teargas canister at the border with Lebanon, where tensions were high. Meanwhile, in Syria, violations were reported in areas controlled by the Syrian opposition.

The following is a detailed summary of the violations monitored by the Samir Kassir Foundation’s SKeyes Center in all four countries:

In Lebanon, Al-Manar TV correspondent Ali Sheaib with targeted by Israeli forces with a teargas canister in Kfarshuba on June 9, while the Lebanese General Security prevented Kuwaiti journalist and commentater Fajr Al-Saeed from entering the country on June 7. Moreover, the Anti-Cybercrime and Intellectual Property Bureau summoned several journalists, including Pascale Abou Nader from the Elnashra website on June 20, Rabih Farran, and Rihab Daher on June 6.

Also in June, the movie theatre chain Vox Cinemas, which operates in the Gulf countries, Egypt and Lebanon, made a controversial decision on June 16 not to screen the latest Spider-Man movie. The reason behind this decision was that the movie featured a transgender flag.

In Syria, the violations were mainly perpetrated in areas controlled by the Syrian opposition. In the city of Azaz, which is under the control of “National Army” in Aleppo countryside, the “civil police” arrested several journalists, including the Aleppo Today channel crew consisting of cameraman Abu Baker Al-Saqqa and journalist Ahmad Al-Khatib on June 23. Additionally, members of the Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham-affiliated “Salvation Government” security attacked journalists Omar Nuzhat and Ali Nasrallah in Idlib on June 27.

In Jordan, lawyer and human rights defender Hala Ahed fell victim to a smear campaign that commenced on June 15 and spread across various social media platforms, lasting for several days. The campaign accused Ahed of “promoting feminism.” The controversy erupted after the civil society organisation “Ahel” organized four face-to-face sessions for women in Jordan, facilitated by lawyer Hala Ahed, aiming at educating about “feminism and its principles.” The sessions took place in the capital, Amman, from June 17 to June 22. Online incitement campaigns escalated, accusing Ahed of “abandoning her faith” and “advancing malicious Western agendas,” even going so far as to call for the revocation of her Jordanian citizenship.

In the West Bank, Israeli forces fired live bullets at several media crews, resulting in injuries and arrests. On June 19, the Roya channel crew members – Hafez Abu Sabra and Mahmoud Fawzi – and the Jmedia team – Laith Jaar, Ashraf Abu Shawish, and Samer Khoueira – were targeted with live fire. Additionally, the Turkish TRT channel crew – Nidal Al-Masri and Ibrahim Al-Rantissi – and the Al-Ghad TV cameraman Hazem Nasser were also fired upon, with Nasser sustaining an injury in the waist (06/19). Journalist Mohammad Mona was arrested after his house in Nablus was raided on June 27, while freelance photographer Isaac Al-Kasba was assaulted by settlers with sticks and stones, resulting in rib fractures on June 21.

Furthermore, the Palestinian intelligence service subjected freelance journalist Mujahid Hamdallah Mardawi to a three-hour questioning session about his journalistic work and bank account on June 21, and thy demanded him to appear again on July 5 before eventually releasing him.

In the Gaza Strip, there were no recorded violations on the media and cultural front during June.

In the 1948 Territories, Israeli police continued their violations against Palestinian journalists. They banned Nejma Hijazi, the correspondent for SKeyes and Aljarmak, from covering the events in Galilee and threatened to arrest her on June 6. On the same day, the Israeli forces also prevented journalist Ibrahim Sinjlawi from filming in Jerusalem. On June 12, Freelance journalist Lama Ghosheh’s trial was once again postponed to July 11 by the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court.

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