Female journalists being targeted with violence and harassment, says Coveney

Shireen Abu Akleh: Israeli government must ensure ‘swift accountability’ over killing

Female journalists are “targeted disproportionately” with harassment and violence, Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has said.

Mr Coveney said there has been an increase in the targeting of female journalists, both offline and “increasingly online”.

The Minister was speaking in the Dáil today, where statements were being heard on the role of journalists in conflicts across the world.

Mr Coveney said he condemned the recent killing of journalist Shireen Abu Akleh as well as the "disgraceful actions" of Israeli police at her funeral in Jerusalem.

Ms Abu Akleh (51), a journalist with Al Jazeera, was reporting on an Israeli raid in the city of Jenin in the occupied West Bank earlier this month when she was shot in the head.

“These appalling events [at Ms Abu Akleh’s funeral] compound the trauma of those grieving, increase already heightened tension particularly in Jerusalem, and show a complete disrespect for the dead,” Mr Coveney said.

“These actions were offensive to every sense of decency and have no place in any modern society.”

He said the Israeli government must now take “definitive steps” to ensure “swift accountability” over what happened, and “should not and cannot ignore” calls for a full independent and transparent investigation into Ms Abu Akleh’s death.

“The Israeli government must now outline how it intends to achieve this in a credible way. Any delays make it more difficult to gather evidence and to hold those responsible to account,” he added.

Mr Coveney said he echoed concerns that an official European Parliament delegation mission to Palestine, which included two Irish MEPs, was cancelled after the delegation's chair was blocked from entering Israel.

The Minister pointed to the most recent figures from Reporters Without Borders, which show 939 journalists and media workers had been killed across the globe between 2011 and 2020.

Mr Coveney said attacks against journalists were occurring across the world against the background of “growing authoritarianism”, with associated restrictions on press freedom, increased cyber surveillance and growth in disinformation.

He said that “too often”, journalists face violence and intimidation, and in many cases threats of killing go uninvestigated.

“Women journalists are particularly at risk of marginalisation and are targeted disproportionately by harassment and violence,” Mr Coveney said.

“Offline and increasingly online, we’re now seeing an increase in the targeting of women journalists, including in situations where gender intersects with other forms of discrimination, including race, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation.”

Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, Catherine Martin, noted the death of Irish cameraman Pierre Zakrzewski in Ukraine last March, who was described as "an inspiration" and "bigger than life" by his friends.

Ms Martin said the Government must “reinforce” the protections afforded to journalists and other media actors engaged in work that is “instrumental for the healthy operation of democracy”.