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Updated 20/05/22 - vigil in Belfast

Shireen’s voice will not be silenced

Shireen Abu Akleh

Shireen Abu Akleh 1971-2022

ON 12 May at 5:30pm a vigil outside the BBC in London remembered Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, killed on the outskirts of Jenin refugee camp in the occupied Palestinian territories on 11 May. Another Palestinian journalist, Ali Samoudi, was shot in the back and is now in a "stable condition", able to report that they were both shot by Israeli forces. Former London Freelance Branch Chair Pennie Quinton addressed the vigil.

SOLIDARITY with the people of Palestine, who have lost one of their talented frontline voices. Solidarity with the family of Shireen Abu Akleh, who have lost a loved one taken from them while doing her job - reporting the violence of life lived under military occupation.

As with every aspect of Palestinian life lived under occupation, the risk of military violence when going about everyday life in the occupied Palestinian territories is routine. Shireen's everyday working life was covering the routinised violence of military occupation. Shireen was a respected journalist and had a successful career working for Al Jazeera TV. Many Palestinians grew up watching her TV broadcasts from the front line: Israeli house demolitions in East Jerusalem, Israeli military incursions into rural villages, settler violence.

I have worked as a journalist in the West Bank, and I know the full extent of Israeli security surveillance: the Israeli army would know exactly where the press teams were and who was on the ground reporting. There was no excuse for the Israeli army to shoot Shireen - she was known - she was a public face. Nor can there be any excuse for the shooting of veteran journalist Ali Samoudi, renowned for his work globally that has featured in numerous documentaries and TV broadcasts.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time Palestinian journalists have been killed or injured doing their job. Palestinian journalists are shot and killed almost routinely by Israeli forces. At least 45 journalists have been killed by Israeli forces since 2000, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Information.

In 2002, while covering the Jenin massacre, journalist Ali Samoudi was blown into the air by munitions from an Israeli tank. In 2008 Ali walked me through where he was blown up. He somehow survived that day and he also somehow survived being shot in the back on 11 May 2022, some twenty years later. Shireen did not survive that day. She was shot in her neck by an Israeli sniper.

I am the same age as Shireen and, unlike Shireen, I did not grow up through the extreme violence of military occupation. Aged 16 in 1987, during the First Intifada, Shireen almost certainly witnessed her school friends being maimed by Israeli forces enforcing the "broken bones policies" that deliberately targeted, maimed, and paralysed youths to deter protest against Israeli military occupation. In the Second Intifada in 2002 Shireen covered the incursions into the West Bank that destroyed Palestinian cities.

In 2008 I interviewed journalists, both Israeli and Palestinian, reporting on military occupation of the West Bank - for research on the risks to journalists working in the occupied Palestinian territories, commissioned by Warwick Business School. All the Israeli journalists I interviewed said they had good working relations with their Palestinian colleagues, who took responsibility for them in the occupied territories and kept them safe.

Following the fatal shooting of Shireen Abu Akleh, Israeli Journalists must step up and lead the fight for justice for Shireen from the Israeli side - as Palestinian organisations have already said that there will be no justice for Shireen if the investigation is led by the Israeli state. Israeli journalists must shame their government and hold it to account for this brutal killing.

Shireen's voice will not be silenced, and we call on journalists everywhere to stand in solidarity with Shireen.

Vigil in Belfast

Members of the Belfast and District branch of the National Union of Journalists organised a vigil to mark the shooting of our Palestinian colleague Shireen Abu Akleh and to call for justice in this and other cases where journalists have been killed for doing their job of reporting fairly and accurately. Speakers included Robin Wilson, Chair of the Belfast and District NUJ Branch; Ali Khan of the Belfast Multi-Cultural Association; Alison Millar, Chair of the Northern Ireland Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (NIC-ICTU); Fiona Ferguson of People Before Profit PBP; Belfast councillor Donal Lyons of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP); and Belfast councillor Mohammad Samaana.

The Belfast vigil

Members of Belfast Branch held a vigil for Shireen Abu Akleh on 14 May

The Belfast vigil

Members of Belfast Branch held a vigil for Shireen Abu Akleh on 14 May