RSF calls for independent probe into Al Jazeera reporter’s West Bank killing

Israeli riot police attack pallbearers
Israeli riot police attack the pallbearers carrying the coffin of assassinated Palestinian American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh on the way to her burial on Mount Zion. Image: RSF/AJ

Pacific Media Watch newsdesk

Israel’s fatal shooting of leading Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh as she covered clashes in the West Bank city of Jenin is a serious violation of the Geneva Conventions and UN Security Council Resolution 2222 on the protection of journalists, says the Paris-based media freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

It has called for an independent international investigation into her death as soon as possible.

Witnesses said Abu Akleh, a Palestinian American, was killed by a shot to the head although she was wearing a bulletproof vest with the word “PRESS” that clearly identified her as a journalist.

Ali al-Samudi, a Palestinian journalist working as an Al Jazeera producer who was beside her at the time, was also targeted, sustaining a gunshot wound in the back, RSF reported.

Samudi, who is now in hospital, said in a video: “We were filming. They did not ask us to stop filming or to leave. They fired a shot that hit me and another shot that killed Shireen in cold blood.”

Following Abu Akleh’s death, Israeli security forces raided her East Jerusalem home as her family was making arrangements for her funeral.

Her body was transferred to Nablus for an autopsy prior to be taken to Jerusalem, where her funeral took place yesterday in emotional scenes with massive crowds. She was buried beside her parents in Mount Zion.

Israeli riot police attacked the pallbearers and a hearse carrying her coffin in the peaceful march, and ripped away Palestinian flags. International protests have followed this latest attack.

Popular in Middle East
Abu Akleh was very popular in the Middle East and was respected by fellow journalists for her experience in the field.

Al Jazeera issued a statement accusing the Israeli security forces of “deliberately” targeting Abu Akleh and of killing her “in cold blood.”

Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh
Palestinian American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh … assassinated in “cold blood” in Jenin. Image: AJ screenshot APR

The Israel Defence Forces announced an investigation into her death, but IDF spokesman Amnon Shefler said Israeli soldiers “would never deliberately target non-combatants”.

Several witnesses, including an AFP photographer, denied seeing any armed Palestinians at the place where Abu Akleh was killed. Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas said he held the Israeli authorities “fully responsible” for her death.

“RSF is not satisfied with Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid’s proposal of a joint investigation into this journalist’s death,” said RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire.

“An independent international investigation must be launched as soon as possible.”

The shooting of these two Palestinian reporters during an IDF “anti-terrorist operation” in Jenin is the latest of many disturbing cases.

Two journalists fatally shot
In the spring of 2018, two Palestinian journalists were fatally shot by Israeli snipers while covering the weekly “Great March of Return” protests near the Israeli border in the Gaza Strip.

Also in 2018, Ain Media founder Yaser Murtaja was killed on the spot on March 30, while Radio Sawt al Shabab reporter Ahmed Abu Hussein died in hospital on April 25 from the gunshot injury he suffered on April 13.

According to RSF’s tallies, more than 140 journalists have been the victims of violations by the Israeli security forces on Friday’s marches since 2018, and at least 30 journalists have been killed since 2000.

Israel is 86th in the RSF 2022 World Press Freedom Index, and Palestine is 170th.

Pacific Media Watch collaborates with Reporters Without Borders.

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