EU calls for independent investigation of killing of Palestinian journalist

EU calls for independent investigation of killing of Palestinian journalist
Credit: Belga

The circumstances of the killing of Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh on Wednesday during a raid by Israeli security forces in a refugee camp in Jenin on the West Bank are still unclear and have led to calls for an international or independent investigation.

Abu Akleh, 51, was shot to death while covering the raid wearing a blue jacket marked with the word “PRESS”. She was a well-known journalist who had been working for Qatar-based Al Jazeera since 1997.

Her body was immediately taken to a Palestinian hospital where a bullet was removed but the Palestinian authorities are refusing to carry out a joint investigation with Israel into her death. She was careful and had taken cover at about 150 m from the Israeli soldiers according to initial findings.

“Unfortunately, Shireen was hurt,” said Israel’s Minister of Defence Benny Gantz said at a press briefing yesterday. “We are not certain how she was killed but we want to get to the bottom of this incident. We want to conduct not just a military debriefing but a full-scale investigation on our side to include a forensic analysis.”

Because of the gun fire between the soldiers and Palestinian gunmen it can currently not be said what gun fire was directed at her, he said. “I cannot exclude any option under the operational chaos that was on the ground.”

Referring to the on-going terror wave in Israel, where some of the perpetrators had come from Jenin, he justified the raid in the refugee camp as a preemptive measure to arrest suspected terrorists.

Abu Akleh was an American citizen and the incident has been condemned by the American administration which called for an immediate and thorough investigation. The spokesperson of the European External Action service (EEAS) issued a similar statement on Wednesday in which the EU strongly condemned the killing of the journalist.

“It is essential that a thorough, independent investigation clarifies all the circumstances of these incidents as soon as possible and that those responsible are brought to justice. It is unacceptable to target journalists while they perform their job. Journalists covering conflict situations must be ensured safety and protection at all times.”

Asked by The Brussels Times at the European Commission’s press conference today if EEAS had received any response from the Israeli authorities, he replied that it does not expect any specific response. “The best response would be if an independent investigation is launched as soon as possible.”

EU is always prepared to contribute to an investigation and, if asked, would provide assistance to the investigation, he added.

The Israeli authorities are normally inclined to reject calls for an independent investigation and refer to its own investigations but in this case an internal investigation would be less credible. The ministries of defence and foreign affairs were asked if Israel would accept an independent investigation but did not reply in time of publishing this article.

The European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (Ecpmf) has reported an increase in different kinds of incidents in the EU where journalists have been harassed or physically attacked by protesters and police in the EU, among others in connection with demonstrations during the coronavirus crisis. Similar incidents have also occurred inside Israel against Israeli journalists.

But nothing is more dangerous for journalists than covering conflicts and reporting from war zones. In its statement, the EU recalls the crucial role played in a democratic society by journalists, media workers and free and independent media.

M. Apelblat

The Brussels Times

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