Ramallah, West Bank, Jun 11 (EFE).- The fatal shooting of veteran reporter Shireen Abu Akleh has fueled the vocation of journalism students in the region. Wielding pens and cameras, they are preparing to take over from their mentor at the forefront of covering the Israeli occupation.
A month ago, Abu Akleh, known as the “voice of Palestine”, was shot dead while covering an Israeli army raid in Jenin in the West Bank despite the fact that she was wearing a helmet and a bulletproof vest that identified her as “press”.
Upon hearing the news, thousands of students took to the halls of Ramallah’s Birzeit University to express their grief over the killing of Abu Akleh, a Palestinian icon after spending nearly three decades on radio and television.
“She was something like (…) ‘a superhero’ that cannot be beaten”, Duha Abuhijleh, the university’s coordinator of digital journalism tells Efe.
“I preferred to have news from her because I trusted her. She was impartial,” student Lateefah Zaghloul says.
Zaghloul had only just been born when Shireen established herself with her coverage of the Second Intifada (2000-2005) on the Qatari channel Al Jazeera.
“There was a curfew, we could not go out of our homes, so we had to see everything that happens through the eyes of Shireen (…) So our memory really is related so much to Shireen and her colleagues at Al Jazeera,” Emad Alasfar, director of the Birzeit Media Development Center says.
Birzeit University, where she worked as a teacher in 2004, created a scholarship in honor of the late reporter that will go to female journalists. An annual journalism contest named after Shireen has also been created.
For years, the radio and television teacher Juman Quneis has shown Abu Akleh’s reports in her classes, where women are the majority.
She says her killing marked a watershed moment in the world of Palestinian media, adding that it raises questions such as the on-ground security protocols, the relevance of the international community and the importance of journalistic work in Palestine.
“On the contrary of what’s expected – that they have fear – now they are more convinced that they have to continue and look at Shireen as an exemplary journalist that they have to be like,” Quneis says.
At least 30 journalists have been killed covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since 2000, according to Reporters Without Borders.
“Working here is dangerous, and this danger comes from Israeli occupation forces,” Alasfar denounces.
Separate investigations by the Palestinian government and CNN blamed Israeli for Shireen’s killing, a hypothesis Israel has rejected, with the chief of the General Staff, Aviv Kochavi, saying she was “armed with cameras”.
“It is not the first time that Israelis kill a civilian and this is not the first time they say that she was armed with a camera. Just tell me when the camera became an arm,” Quneis says.
“Shireen was armed, yes, because she had a tool to tell the truth and this is not welcomed by the Israeli soldiers,” he says.
Abu Akleh’s death shocked the Arab world and the international community; even more so when, during her funeral, Israeli forces threw grenades and brutally beat mourners carrying the coffin.
While her death has been seen as a tragedy, her legacy is strong in the next generation of Palestinian journalists who take inspiration from her life’s work.
For Abuhijleh, their coordinator, “every new journalist that is going to graduate from here, yes, he has a small Shireen Abu Akleh within”. EFE