It has not been a safe year for journalists. Since January 1st, 27 have been killed while working, or for reasons related to work. On Friday the latest of their number, veteran, much-loved American-Palestinian Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh (51), was buried in Jerusalem following her killing last Wednesday in the West Bank city of Jenin.
Abu Akleh was reporting on Israeli raids and, according to witnesses, was shot with a colleague as she approached a patrol. Both were wearing flak jackets and helmets clearly marked “press” but Israeli spokesmen, including prime minister Naftali Bennett, were quick to insist that the troops had come under fire.
According to Bennett “it appears likely that armed Palestinians – who were indiscriminately firing at the time– were responsible for the unfortunate death of the journalist”. Later Israeli statements expressed regret and uncertainty about responsibility.
The European Union and the United Nations security council have echoed Palestinian demands for what the UN called an "immediate, thorough, transparent, and fair and impartial investigation". Israel's offer of a joint inquiry has been rejected by the Palestinian Authority, which has asked the International Criminal Court to investigate. Israel does not cooperate with the court, which it claims is biased, and has previously refused requests for joint investigations.
Last month, international and Palestinian journalist groups filed a formal complaint with the ICC accusing Israel of war crimes against journalists and of systematically targeting journalists working in the occupied West Bank and Gaza, as well as of failing to properly investigate killings of news media workers. Since 2000, some 25 journalists have been killed by Israeli forces, according to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights.
Adding fuel to Palestinian anger on Friday, Israeli police disgracefully baton-charged mourners carrying Abu Akleh’s coffin from the hospital to the cathedral in a bid to stop them proceeding by foot rather than taking the coffin by car.