SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom
The Samir Kassir eyes (SKeyes) Center was established in Beirut in November 2007 at the initiative of the Samir Kassir Foundation, which was founded following the assassination of Lebanese journalist and historian Samir Kassir on June 2, 2005.The center’s principal goals are twofold, to monitor violations of freedom of the press and culture on the one hand, and defend the rights and freedom of expression of journalists and intellectuals on the other.
Scope of Work
From its head office in Beirut and through its network of correspondents, SKeyes activities cover four Middle Eastern countries: Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, and Jordan. The center’s website (www.skeyesmedia.org) publishes information and reports on press and cultural freedom in these four countries. Ultimately, SKeyes aims to cover the entire Arab world.
Goals: SKeyes aims to defend press and cultural freedom in the Middle East and promote the establishment of an Arab public opinion that is able to protect freedom of expression.
The center has two missions
1 – To monitor the violations against freedom of the press and culture in various fields: press, audiovisual media, blogs, books, theater, cinema, as well as academic and scientific research. 2 – To act within the framework of civil society to defend freedoms through all legal means, and build effective media and cultural pressure groups on the Arab and international levels.
SKeyes intends to achieve these goals through:1 – Publication of press releases and reports; dissemination of information pertaining to specific cases of violation of press and cultural freedom. 2 – Organization of workshops to analyze and discuss press and cultural freedom related issues, and adopt concrete recommendations. 3 – Organization of exhibitions and conferences on press and cultural freedom related issues. 4 – Elaboration of petitions signed by journalists and intellectuals, and participation in the organization of campaigns to protect freedom of expression. 5 – Provision of legal support to journalists and intellectuals facing prosecution, undue charges and prison, through dedicated lawyers defending them in courts if necessary. 6 – Provision of financial and moral support to jailed journalists and intellectuals. 7 – Ongoing coordination with local and international committees that defend journalism, culture and human rights.
The SKeyes website (www.skeyesmedia.org) publishes press releases and reports on the center’s activities and the situation of press and cultural freedom on the Arab and international level. Various other reports and studies on media and culture in the Arab world are also available on the site.2 – A quarterly newsletter serving as a forum for free expression in the Arab world.3 – Brochures and books about seminars, workshops and conferences organized by the center.
The Board of Directors, whose members are appointed by the Samir Kassir Foundation, oversees the activities of the center and prepares its action plan. It includes seven members: Khaled Hroub, Farouk Mardam-Bey, Nada Moghaizel, Gisèle Khoury, Maroun Labaki, Saoud al-Mawla and Elias Khoury. The Board designated one of its members, Elias Khoury, to hold the post of director during the foundation phase of the center. Elias Khoury was succeeded by Saad Kiwan. The current director of the center is Ayman Mhanna.SKeyes staff uphold various research and administrative responsibilities and take part in all activities that the center organizes, in a democratic atmosphere that guarantees collective decision-making and individual responsibility. A publishing office oversees the four areas that the center covers (Jordan, Palestine, Lebanon and Syria). A researcher manages the network of correspondents, who provide the center with accurate information based on their sources and connections to the press and cultural actors in their country. As an information center and an active protector of journalists and intellectuals, SKeyes is committed to the highest accuracy, objectivity and professionalism standards.
Press and intellectual activities in the Arab world face great difficulties that are linked to the prevailing political realities. On the one hand, the Israeli occupation, through its continuing violations of human rights, provides an example of the challenges faced by proponents of press and cultural freedom. On the other hand, censorship of the press and cultural productions, cultural repression, as well as the state of emergency declared in many Arab countries, represent major obstacles for freedom of expression and respect for human rights.
SKeyes strives to involve the largest number of journalists and intellectuals in its activities. It organizes conferences, exhibitions and meetings, and calls on journalists and intellectuals who are victims of abuse to get in touch with its office in Beirut. It opens its doors to any independent activity related to the defense of freedom of expression.Not only does the defense of the rights of journalists and intellectuals involve the fight against censorship and repression of power, it also includes the defense of their professional rights vis-à-vis media and publishing companies.The success of our activities is measured by our ability to generate voluntary work and create an atmosphere that allows journalists and intellectuals to work freely and defend the justness of their causes. For all these reasons, SKeyes is a democratic voice and a tool for journalists and intellectuals in the Arab world.
Ayman Mhanna: Executive Director