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SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom - Samir Kassir Foundation

Freedom of Expression Violations in the Levant - March 2023

Wednesday , 26 April 2023
Design: Mahmoud Younis

During March 2023, there was surge in the Israeli forces’ crackdown on Palestinian journalists and photographers, with 24 individuals targeted, including 17 in the West Bank alone. These attacks have taken a disturbing turn, with reports of attempt to run over media professionals with vehicles and even strangling them. In Lebanon, there has been a notable increase in both official and private summonses and complaints against journalists, with only one violation monitored in Syria and another in Jordan.

The Samir Kassir Foundation's SKeyes Center has compiled a detailed summary of the violations monitored in all four countries.

In Lebanon, journalist Jean Kassir was summoned by State Security over an article tackling the Beirut blast investigation (03/30), while The Public Source journalist Lara Bitar was summoned by the Anti-Cybercrime and Intellectual Property Bureau over an investigative article, following a complaint filed against her by the Lebanese Forces (03/31). LBCI reporter Nada Andraos was prevented from covering the murder of Zeinab Zeaiter by her husband in the Choueifat desert locality under the pretext that it was a “private case” (03/27).

Furthermore, MP Gebran Bassil filed a complaint against the Parallel and Spot Shot websites over a video (03/29), while banker Antoun Sehnaoui lodged a complaint against MP Paula Yacoubian and Michel Kanbour, published or Lebanon Debate and Spot Shot, over an interview (03/02). In addition, former minister Marwan Kheireddine delivered a written warning to journalist Hala Nasreddine of the Daraj website over an investigative article (03/06).

In Syria, activist Rami Vitale was arrested by Lattakia Criminal Security on charges of insulting the Ministry of Interior (03/12) in a Facebook post from a year ago. In the post, he discussed the case of a child who was victim of violence in a Lattakia police station. Vitale was also accused of dealing in foreign currencies after receiving the equivalent of SYP 400,000 in aid to provide for the children in his care.

In Jordan, the trial of writer and journalist Ahmad Hassan Al-Zoabi was postponed until further notice by the Amman public prosecutor (03/12), following a complaint filed against him over a previous social media post. Al-Zoabi was informed of this decision only minutes before his trial while waiting outside the Palace of Justice with a group of lawyers and dozens of fellow journalists who came to show solidarity.

In the West Bank, Israeli forces continued their attacks on Palestinian journalists and photographers. They hit photographer Moatasem Saqf Al-Hait with a teargas canister and photographer Sleiman Abu Srour with a rubber-coated bullet (03/17). Also, they prevented photographers Mohammad Awad, Majed Sabarneh, and Hatem Hamdan from filming the events, threatening them at gunpoint (03/12). Furthermore, Israeli soldiers detained photographers Karim Khamayseh, Youssef Shehadeh, Moatasem Saqf Al-Hait, Hatem Hamdan, Mohammad Turkman, Laith Jaar, and Nasser Ashtieh, as well as freelance journalist Mostafa Al-Khawaja (03/10). Correspondents Abdullah Tayseer Bahesh, Jihad Eddine Badawi, and Ayman Faysal Kawareen were also detained while on duty (03/25). An Israeli unit hindered the work of Roya TV correspondent Hafez Abu Sabra and his fellow cameraman Khaled Bdeir south of Nablus (03/03), while a military vehicle tried to run over Abu Sabra and his colleague Mohammad Fawzi in Jenin (03/07).

Internally, Palestinian security beat photographer Wahhaj Bani Mufleh in Nablus (03/08) and stormed the Wattan TV headquarters to prevent a press conference from taking place. They also deleted pictures taken by two photographers (03/01). In addition, Facebook blocked the access to the Ultra Palestine news page (03/05).

In Gaza, Israeli forces fired teargas grenades at photographers Hashem Zemmo and Hamed Al-Shawbaki (03/30). Hamas police arrested journalist Hani Abu Rizk for two days for filming without prior approval (03/25). Additionally, Facebook blocked access to the accounts of SKeyes correspondent Mohammad Othman (03/01), freelance photographer Hashem Zemmo (03/05), and Al-Mayadeen TV correspondent Akram Dalloul (03/09) citing “violating community standards.”

In the 1948 Territories, an Israeli settler attempted to strangle Al-Mashhad TV correspondent Ahlam Othman with an Israeli flag (03/27). A military vehicle tried to run over Al-Qastal Network correspondent Saif Kawasmeh (03/23). The Israeli forces prevented photographers Moaz Khatib and Mustafa Kharouf (03/14), as well as Anadolu correspondent Samir Abdul-Hadi (03/27) from covering the events.

Furthermore, Israel’s National Security Minister, Itamar Ben Gvir, decided to shut down all offices of the Voice of Palestine TV channel and radio station in Jerusalem and the 1948 Territories, banning them from carrying out any activity under the pretext of broadcasting inflammatory statements. Five journalists working for the media were also summoned and questioned. Finally, Tel Aviv University prevented the organisation of an Arab book fair, citing “incitement” (03/20).

This report was published with the support of:

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