SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom - Samir Kassir Foundation

Freedom of Expression Violations in the Levant – March 2020 Monthly Report

Monday , 27 April 2020
In March 2020, the Israeli forces continued their violations against Palestinian journalists and photographers in the West Bank, injuring three of them with rubber-coated bullets, while the Palestinian Preventive Security arrested a journalist for “insulting the authorities.” In Gaza, the Hamas security beat a journalist, arrested a writer and a cartoonist, and summoned a journalist on fallacious grounds. In the 1948 Territories, Facebook blocked the accounts of two journalists. In Lebanon, a TV channel crew were beaten, unknown people fired bullets at a journalist’s office, an activist was questioned, another one threatened over her social media publications, and a third one was forced to remove a video. Also, a journalist was summoned after posting two tweets and an activist after participating in a TV show, while a journalist and an economist were charged for libel and defamation. In Syria, a media activist, a reporter and a photographer were arrested. Whereas in Jordan, two journalists were arrested. Also, the Jordanian authorities suspended newspaper printing and Egyptian folk singers were banned from performing in the Kingdom.
Below is a detailed summary of the violations monitored by the SKeyes Center in the four countries.

In Lebanon, unidentified assailants fired dozens of bullets at the house and office of Shuaib Zakaria, a reporter for local broadcaster Delta North in Akkar (03/29) and an LBCI crew came under attack while filming on board of an airplane coming from Riyadh to repatriate Lebanese citizens amid the COVID-19 outbreak (03/14). Also, the Anti-Cybercrime and Intellectual Property Bureau questioned activist Youssef Assi over a Facebook post (03/05) and the Criminal Investigation Department summoned journalist Nawfal Daou over two tweets (03/11) and Dr. Hadi Mrad after he made a bold statement in a televised interview criticising the Minister of Public Health (03/13). Security agents forced playwright and activist Hashem Adnan to delete a video he took of them destroying the tents of protesters in downtown Beirut (03/28) and activist Ward Abboud was insulted and threatened with rape on social media over her Facebook posts (03/29). Moreover, Judge Ghada Aoun took legal action against economist Hassan Moukalled and OTV journalist Joséphine Dib for slander and defamation on Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt and MP Wael Abou Faour, and transferred the case to the Publications Court (03/19).

In Syria, unknown gunmen abducted Syrian citizen journalist Majd Hamo as well as Turkish correspondent Murad Jan and his colleague while they were heading to cover the regime’s shelling of Jabal al-Zawiya in the Idlib countryside (03/02); they also stole their car and media equipment.

In Jordan, the Amman Prosecutor summoned journalist Hiba Abou Taha and questioned her about her interview with the Prime Minister. He then arrested her and released her on bail (03/14). Also, Jordan Radio and Television Corporation Director General prevented TV host Lara Tamash from appearing on air for a while after she made a mistake about a tech company that she thought was specialized in agri-food (03/11), while the government suspended newspaper printing and distribution in response to the COVID-19 pandemic (03/22). In addition, the Jordanian Artists’ Association banned Egyptian folk singers from performing during festivals in the Kingdom (03/09) and the Supreme Court cancelled the decision to fire two members of the Jordan Press Association (03/12).

In the Gaza Strip, the Hamas police arrested writer Abdullah Abu Sharakh for “spreading rumors” on his Facebook page (03/13), summoned freelance journalist Asma Al-Madhoun on the same charges (03/25), and beat journalist Yasser Abou Azira while he was covering a protest (03/14). Hamas intelligence service arrested cartoonist Ismail Al-Bozm twice in six days over Facebook publications (03/20).

In the West Bank, the Israeli forces continued their violations against Palestinian media professionals. They fired rubber-coated bullets at journalist Bakr Abdul-Hak (03/11) and photographers Mohammad Sayeh (03/01) and Jaafar Ashtieh (03/13). The Israeli military court decided to extend the detention period of journalist Mujahid Mefleh on charges of incitement posts (03/01) while the Palestinian Preventive Security arrested journalist Ayman Kawarik for insulting the authorities (03/02).

In the 1948 Territories, Facebook prevented photographer Ata Aweissat from using the live streaming option (03/18) and journalist Wajdi Khattar from posting on his page (03/23) without giving valid reasons.

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