The death of journalist Shireen Abu Akleh on Wednesday deeply shocked her colleagues at Al-Jazeera TV. These all describe a “pioneer” and a great professional, whose journalistic rigor was unanimous.
Journalist for the pan-Arab television channel Al-Jazeera, Shireen Abu Akleh, shot dead on Wednesday May 11 while covering an Israeli army operation in the occupied West Bank, was a renowned Palestinian reporter, hailed for her courage and professionalism.
Born in 1971 into a Christian family in occupied East Jerusalem, this Palestinian, who also held US citizenship, studied journalism at Yarmouk University in Jordan before co-founding the Ramallah-based Voice of Palestine radio station.
She joined Al-Jazeera in 1997, a year after the launch of the channel, of which she became one of the star reporters.
For Hoda Abdel-Hamid, one of her colleagues contacted by telephone in Ukraine by AFP, “she was certainly a very courageous journalist”. “I asked him: ‘Don’t you ever get tired?’ She was always there, as soon as something happened. She was much more daring than me. (…) But she was also a very experienced journalist, not the type to take stupid risks just to take them .”
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In a recent interview with a local news agency, Shireen Abu Akleh made no secret of being frequently afraid when she was in the field. “I’m looking for a safe place to stand and looking for a way to protect my team before worrying about the images,” confided this journalist, who had no children.
Shireen Abu Akleh, who wore a helmet and a bulletproof vest flanked by the word “Press”, was killed Wednesday in Jenin, a Palestinian city where the Israeli army, which has occupied the West Bank since 1967, has recently stepped up operations.
It is from this city in the north of the West Bank and the adjacent Palestinian refugee camp that several assailants of deadly anti-Israeli attacks have come from in recent weeks, against a backdrop of violence.
“One of the first female Arab war correspondents”
Earlier this year, the journalist wrote in the magazine This Week in Palestine that Jenin did not represent “a fleeting story in (her) career or even in (her) personal life”. “It’s the city that can lift my morals,” she said, because Jenin “embodies the Palestinian spirit that sometimes trembles and falls but, beyond all expectation, rises to pursue its struggles and its dreams.” .
Having covered the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for two decades, she was an icon for many Palestinians. In the eyes of her colleague Mohammad Daraghmeh, also a close friend of hers, she was “one of the strongest journalists in the Arab world”.
She “was one of the first Arab women to be a war correspondent in the late 1990s, when the traditional role of women in television was to present (news) in a studio,” Dima Khatib said on Twitter. another Al-Jazeera journalist, calling her colleague a “pioneer”.
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“Shireen was a courageous, kind, journalist with great integrity, one that millions of Palestinians and I grew up watching her with,” said Fadi Quran, one of the directors of Avaaz, a United States-based NGO. United States.
His television channel paid tribute to him on Wednesday. She was to open the newspaper “but she never showed up”: choking back tears, Mohamed Moawad, editor of the Qatari channel, recalls his last exchanges with the journalist.
“Our last communication was 20 minutes before this heinous crime. She sent an email saying: ‘Hello, there is an Israeli intervention in Jenin and I am going there now. I am almost there. I will send you the details,'” he told AFP.
“She went everywhere to give a voice to those who don’t have one”
During the minute of silence observed on the air, journalists could not prevent the tears from rolling down their cheeks. At the chain’s offices in Doha, her colleagues hug each other, clutching portraits of the journalist and sheets on which is written: “Journalism is not a crime”. Behind them, on screens, the images of clashes in the Palestinian Territories parade.
“She went everywhere to give a voice to those who don’t have one. There are so many videos showing Shireen being attacked by Israeli forces, being shot and other things,” recalls Mohamed Moawad.
Al-Jazeera later issued a statement saying that Shireen Abu Akleh had been killed “in cold blood” and demanding that the Israeli armed forces be held responsible for her death.
The Jewish state said it was investigating her death but denied that the reporter was deliberately hit. After saying she had “probably” succumbed to gunfire from Palestinian fighters, Israel later claimed that it did not rule out that the bullet was fired by its soldiers.
“We consider it an intentional act because the bullet hit exactly the area under his ear, where there is no protection,” retorted Mohamed Moawad, castigating “irresponsible” comments. Israel on the death of the reporter.
Calls for an independent investigation
The United States has called for a “transparent” investigation, preferably joint between Israelis and Palestinians, while the UN and the European Union have urged an “independent” investigation. The group of Arab countries at the UN called for “an independent international investigation” into the “assassination” of the journalist.
On Wednesday evening, Palestinians laid wreaths as the vehicle carrying his remains passed through the West Bank, then a crowd gathered to carry his body, placed on a stretcher and wrapped in a Palestinian flag, to the local office. of Al-Jazeera.
An official tribute ceremony is scheduled for late Thursday morning in Ramallah in the West Bank, at the headquarters of the Palestinian Authority, in the presence of President Mahmoud Abbas and representatives of the press, before his funeral Friday in a church in Jerusalem, city where she grew up.