Slain Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh did journalism with heart, without fear

Slain Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh did journalism with heart, without fear
Shireen Abu Akleh was one of the Arab world's most famous and well-respected journalists. She said she went into journalism 'to be close to the people'.
3 min read
12 May, 2022
Shireen Abu Akleh's killing by Israeli forces has shaken the world [Sameh Rahmi/NurPhoto/Getty]

Shireen Abu Akleh, shot dead by Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank on Wednesday, was a renowned and prolific  Palestinian journalist whose work was celebrated throughout the Middle East.

Abu Akleh, 51, had worked for Qatari broadcaster Al Jazeera since 1997 and was one of its earliest correspondents, helping establish the network as a major international player.

Her death has shaken the world – from those who avidly followed her first-class reporting to those who did not have that privilege but recognised the brutality of her killing.

Abu Akleh was a US-Palestinian dual national from occupied Jerusalem and came from a Catholic family. She leaves behind a brother, Tony Abu Akleh.

Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa deputy director Saleh Higazi called the veteran reporter a "household name" and said he was "devastated by the news" of her killing.

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"We've been receiving messages from our colleagues across the Middle East and North Africa expressing their sadness and their condolences, and their shock about hearing the news," he told The New Arab.

"Everybody knows Shireen. She's been reporting for over a quarter of a century now."

Her good friend Dalia Hatuqa, also of Al Jazeera, described Abu Akleh as having "an infectious laugh", adding that she "loved to travel, see the world, shop, party".

Before working for Al Jazeera, Shireen studied at Jordan's Yarmouk University and then worked for Voice of Palestine Radio, Amman Satellite Channel and other news organisations back in Palestine.

She rose to prominence for her reporting on the Second Intifada, a major uprising by Palestinians against the Israeli occupation in 2000.

Abu Akleh was a titan of journalism whose work was innovative and told the untold.

"Sometimes I would say, 'No, Shireen forget it, it's not a big story,'" recalled Al Jazeera producer Wessam Hammad, a longtime colleague of Abu Akleh.

"But she would always think about so many different angles on how we could do it, and how we can make it a very human and a very touching story about Palestinians that no other journalist would ever think to do."

"Our loss is huge. She was kind, dedicated and devoted," said Al Jazeera journalist Nida Ibrahim, who worked with Abu Akleh in the West Bank.

"She knew the story through and through and she understood the nuances. She brought a wealth of information to her reporting."

Illustrating her commitment to humanity, in an Al Jazeera video shared widely on social media following her shooting, Abu Akleh said: "I chose journalism to be close to the people.

"It might not be easy to change the reality, but at least I could bring their voice to the world."

An illustration of Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh with red dripping from her head. Abu Akleh was shot in the head by Israeli forces. The image also includes the text: "Journalism is not a crime. Shireen Abu Akleh, 1971-2022."