Murdered Al Jazeera Journalist Was Icon of Palestinian Coverage

Murdered Al Jazeera Journalist Was Icon of Palestinian Coverage

An Al Jazeera correspondent who was shot dead on Wednesday during an Israeli raid in the West Bank was a highly respected journalist in the Middle East whose unflinching coverage was known by millions of viewers.

Shireen Abu Akleh News death reverberated throughout the region. The 51-year-old journalist became a household name synonymous with Al Jazeera’s coverage of life under occupation during her more than two decades reporting in the Palestinian territories, including during the second intifada, or uprising, that killed thousands. people on both sides, most of them Palestinians.

Abu Akleh’s name trended on Twitter in Arabic on Wednesday, setting social media ablaze with support for the Palestinians. His image was projected over the main square of the West Bank city of Ramallah as mourners flooded Al Jazeera’s offices there and his family’s home in east Jerusalem.

Al Jazeera and witnesses, including its producer, who was shot in the back on Wednesday, said she was killed by Israeli gunfire. Israel said it was unclear who was responsible, calling it “premature and irresponsible to lay blame at this stage.” Later on Wednesday, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz promised a transparent investigation and said he was in contact with US and Palestinian officials.

Abu Akleh’s coverage of the harsh realities of Israel’s military occupation was inextricably linked to her own experiences as a Palestinian journalist on the front lines. Her death underscores the high price the conflict continues to exact from the Palestinians, regardless of their role as journalists.

Although she was also an American citizen and frequently visited the United States in the summers, she lived and worked in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, where those who knew her said she felt at home. A Palestinian Christian whose family was originally from Bethlehem, she was born and raised in Jerusalem. She leaves behind a brother and her parents.

In an Al Jazeera video posted last year, Abu Akleh recalled the scale of destruction and “the feeling that death was sometimes just around the corner” during his coverage of the second intifada, from 2000 to 2005.” Despite the dangers, we were determined to get the job done,” he said.

“I chose journalism to be close to people,” he added. “It may not be easy to change reality, but at least I was able to communicate his voice to the world.”

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Abu Akleh joined Al Jazeera in 1997, just a year after the groundbreaking Arabic news network launched. Among his many tasks were covering five wars in gaza and Israel’s war with Lebanon in 2006. He reported on forced evictions from homes, the murders of Palestinian youth, the hundreds of palestinians held free of charge in Israeli prisons and the continued expansion of Jewish settlements.

His long-time producer Wessam Hammad said that Abu Akleh possessed an incredible ability to remain calm under pressure.

“Shireen worked all these years with a commitment to the values ​​and ethics of our profession,” he said of Abu Akleh, whom the network called “the face of Al Jazeera in Palestine.”

He and Abu Akleh were often caught in the Israeli crossfire during the many stories they covered together, he said. On one assignment, his car was filled with tear gas and they struggled to breathe. When they recalled these moments, he said that Abu Akleh laughed and marveled at how they managed to survive.

Footage of the moments after Abu Akleh was shot in the head outside the Jenin refugee camp circulated online and was broadcast on Al Jazeera and other Arab news channels. The body of Abu Akleh, who was wearing a helmet and a vest clearly marked “PRESS”, was found lying face down in a patch of sand. A Palestinian jumped over a wall to reach her as the shots rang out and dragged her motionless body to a car.

In a video from the West Bank hospital where Abu Akleh was pronounced dead, a colleague is seen crying in his hospital bed as others choke back tears. An Al Jazeera correspondent in the Gaza Strip wept on air as she reported from a vigil for the journalist.

Later on Wednesday, Abu Akleh’s body, draped in a Palestinian flag and covered in a wreath of flowers, was carried through central Ramallah on a red stretcher. Hundreds chanted: “With our spirit, with our blood, we will redeem you, Shireen.”

A torrent of condemnation came from governments around the world. The US State Department called his death “an affront to press freedom.”

In an op-ed published in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, columnist Gideon Levy praised her bravery, saying that “Abu Akleh died like a hero, doing her job,” noting that she went to Jenin and other occupied areas that Israeli journalists ” they rarely visit. .”

It had started as another routine task for Abu Akleh. He had sent an email to his colleagues telling them that he was on his way to the Jenin refugee camp to verify reports of an Israeli military raid. “I’ll bring you the news as soon as the picture clears up,” she wrote.

“Generations grew up watching his work,” said producer Hammad. “People heard Shireen’s voice and were influenced by her to study journalism so they could be like her.”

Abu Akleh’s niece, Lina Abu Akleh, described her as a “best friend” and a “second mother”.

“She is someone I have looked up to since I was a child, seeing all her reports,” she told reporters from the family home. “I never thought this day would come when the news would be about her.”


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