Press freedom fears as Israel rules out criminal investigation into Shireen Abu Aqla murder

Israel’s decision not to carry out a criminal investigation into the killing of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Aqla has raised growing concerns about the security of the press covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Reports from the Israeli media hair net and the Jerusalem post This week it claimed that the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) Military Police Criminal Investigation Division had ruled out an investigation into Abu Aqla’s killing.

According to hair netthe main reason given for terminating an investigation is because there is no suspicion of criminal activity involved in his death.

the veteran Al Jazeera journalist and US citizen, 51, .

During the raid, Abu Aqla was shot in the head, despite wearing a jacket and helmet.

Several eyewitnesses, including Abu Aqla’s colleagues, claim that the reporter was killed by Israeli snipers who were firing live bullets in the area where she was.

Al Jazeera accused the IDF of murdering Abu Aqla “in cold blood” in a statement released shortly after Abu Aqla was pronounced dead in hospital.

The Israeli government denied this, stating that there were several Palestinian gunmen shooting at the same location who could “probably” be responsible for Abu Aqla’s death.

READ MORE

In an interim investigation, the IDF said it cannot be deduced whether Palestinian or Israeli gunfire was responsible for Abu Aqla’s death.

The United Nations Security Council and the United States government have .

“Security Council members strongly condemned the killing of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh and the wounding of another journalist in the Palestinian city of Jenin on May 11, 2022,” the UNSC president said in a statement. on May 13.

Security Council members called for “an immediate, thorough, transparent, fair and impartial investigation into his killing and stressed the need to ensure accountability”.

SBS News reached out to Israeli Ambassador to Australia Amir Maimon for comment.

Israel accused of “systematically targeting journalists”

In April, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) appealed to the International Criminal Court against the “systematic attack on journalists” related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

According to the IFJ, there have been 46 journalists killed by Israeli authorities since 2000.

University of Sydney international law professor Ben Saul stressed the importance of an independent investigation into Abu Aqla’s death.

“International human rights law requires that every time someone is killed in a law enforcement accident … there is an obligation for Israel to conduct an independent and impartial investigation to determine responsibility for that death.” said Professor Saul.

“You have to make sure the nature of the investigation is solid enough.”

The number of journalists killed while covering the conflict is “obviously quite high,” said Professor Saul.

“I think it is fair to say that Israel is not taking seriously its international legal obligation to guarantee accountability where alleged killings by Israel occur.”

A mural by Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in Gaza, Palestine - May 12, 2022

Two Palestinian girls pass a mural by Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Aqla in Gaza City. sources: AAP / SOPA images

Lecturer at the Center of Arab and Islamic Studies at Australian National University Anas Iqtait has expressed his concern that someone will be held responsible for Abu Aqla’s murder.

“The obligations under international law, as an occupying power, mean that Israel is responsible for the safety and security of the objects of the people it occupies, including journalists,” he said.

Dr Iqtait said Abu Aqla’s killing was “an example of cultural impunity” that exists in Israel.

READ MORE

In May 2021, Israeli forces demolished the Associated Press skyscraper in the Gaza Strip, as well as the Al Jazeera offices.

“I am shocked and horrified that the Israeli military targeted and destroyed the building housing the AP office and other news outlets in Gaza,” said Associated Press CEO Gary Pruitt.

The IDF said the building was targeted because it understood that Hamas, a Palestinian Islamic political group with a militant wing, was hiding military intelligence there.

READ MORE

Lack of responsibility “an absolute parody”

Director of the Alliance for Journalists’ Freedom and Macquarie University journalism professor Peter Greste said there must be no impunity for killing journalists.

“Whenever a reporter is killed, there must be accountability,” he said.

According to Professor Greste, the killers of nine out of ten journalists go unpunished.

He said the statistic “is an absolute parody”.

“The fact that we have seen so many Palestinian journalists killed in the occupied territories shows a certain degree of neglect and … the degree of willful negligence or a willingness to pursue justice,” he said.

Due to the protests of the Palestinian and Israeli authorities, all the experts interviewed by SBS News believe it is essential that an independent investigation into Abu Aqla’s death be held.

Professor Greste commended the IFJ’s requests to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to seek justice for journalists, including Abu Aqla, whose deaths have not been properly investigated.

“If no one else is willing or able to hold the perpetrators responsible for these murders, then I think the ICJ is right to go to the ICC.”

In a statement released last week, the IDF said in its initial investigation that it is unclear who was responsible for his death.

“The initial investigation concluded that it is not possible to unequivocally determine the source of the gunshots that hit and killed Ms. Abu Akleh,” the statement read.

“The IDF expresses its deep condolences for the death of Shireen Abu Akleh, sees great importance in preserving the freedom of the press and will continue to work to ensure it.”

The Israeli government offered to launch a joint investigation into who and what was responsible for his death with the Palestinian Authority (PA), but the offer was turned down.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said during a public commemoration for Abu Aqla that he will refuse to participate together in an investigation with the Israeli authorities because he does not trust them.

Coffin bearer arrested by Israeli police

Israel on Thursday confirmed that it had arrested one of Abu Aqla’s coffin bearers, .

Civilians carrying a coffin are accused by the police

Israeli forces intervene on Palestinians by carrying the coffin of the killed Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Aqla. sources: Anadolù / Anadolu agency

In a scene that sparked international outrage, Israeli police armed with batons beat several coffin bearers as they transported Abu Aqla’s coffin out of an East Jerusalem hospital last Friday.

A lawyer for coffin bearer Amro Abu Khudeir said his client had been arrested and questioned about his role at the funeral.

According to lawyer Khaldun Najm, Israel also claimed to have “a secret file [Khudeir’s] belonging to a terrorist organization “.

“I think they will arrest more young people who attended the funeral,” Najm said.

“For them the subject of the funeral and the coffin was scandalous.”

The police have rejected any connection between the funeral and Mr. Khudeir’s arrest.

“We are seeing an attempt to produce a fundamentally flawed conspiracy,” they said in a statement.

“The suspect was arrested as part of an ongoing investigation which, contrary to allegations, has nothing to do with his participation in the funeral procession.”

The justifications of the police for the raid on the San Giuseppe hospital have varied.

Israeli police officers, in an apparent attempt to prevent mourners from walking rather than taking the coffin in their car, broke through the courtyard gates and charged into the crowd, some beating the coffin bearers with batons. and kicking them.

They cited the need to eliminate “nationalistic” chants and also claimed that the “rioters” among the mourners threw bullets at the officers.

Abu Aqla was widely respected for his coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for three decades and was a household name among those who witnessed Al Jazeerathe news.

With AFP.