Shireen Abu Akleh nominated for top EU human rights award

Shireen Abu Akleh nominated for top EU human rights award
The Sakharov prize has never been awarded to a Palestinian - and never posthumously.
2 min read
17 September, 2022
Abu Akleh was revered by Palestinians as a hero for her journalism [Getty]

Dozens of members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have nominated slain Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh for the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, the EU’s highest honour for human rights defenders. 

The group 43 of EU lawmakers said on Friday that “Shireen Abu Akleh was one of the most prominent reporters in the Arab-speaking world… A strong believer in freedom of expression, she chose journalism to be close to the people.”

If the veteran reporter were to be given the prize posthumously, it would be the first time it has ever been awarded to a Palestinian. 

Previous laureates include Alexei Navalny, Nelson Mandela and Malala Yousafzai. 

Abu Akleh's sister, Lina, took to Twitter to thank the MEPs.

“Thank you Grace O’Sullivan and all MEPs who joined their efforts in nominating Shireen Abu Akleh for this honorary award nomination,” Lina Abu Akleh tweeted.

Shireen Abu Akleh was shot in the head on 11 May by Israeli forces, while covering a raid in the occupied West Bank, as she wore a helmet and bulletproof vest marked "Press".

At the time, the EU condemned the killing of the Palestinian-American journalist and demanded an independent investigation into the circumstances of her death.

After months of denial, Israel also finally admitted one of its soldiers likely killed the Al Jazeera journalist, claiming that it was in error. Witnesses have claimed that Abu Akleh was targeted in the killing.

Israel previously portrayed the killing as a mistake during a protracted firefight with Palestinian militants.

Several independent international investigations concluded that Abu Akleh was shot by an Israeli soldier.

Abu Akleh’s career spanned 25 years at the pan-Arab Al Jazeera network and she was revered by Palestinians as a hero for her journalism. 

Her killing further strained already tense relations between the Israeli military and reporters covering the harsh realities of Israel's open-ended 55-year occupation of Palestinian land.