EFE/Yemeli Ortega

Seeking justice a year after Palestinian reporter Shireen’s death

By Yemeli Ortega

EFE/Yemeli Ortega

Ramallah, May 11 (EFE).- The desk of slain Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh remains untouched a year after she was killed while reporting an Israeli army raid in the occupied West Bank.

EFE/Yemeli Ortega

Her office has become a memorial site, with flowers, poems, and tributes piled up around her pencil-written notes, a poignant reminder that her death remains unresolved.

EFE/Yemeli Ortega

The veteran journalist, who worked with the Qatari Al Jazeera network since 1997, was killed while covering an Israeli military operation in Jenin, in the northern West Bank, even as she wore a bulletproof vest and helmet marked “press.”

“Her office is as it was (…) the gap she left is very huge,” Walid al Omari, the Al Jazeera bureau chief in Jerusalem and Ramallah, told EFE.

Omari said the reporter, who had turned into a household name among Palestinians with her coverage of the Second Intifada (2000-2005), was his “sister, colleague, and friend.”

“She spoke many languages, was a very good reader, she was involved with activities about women. She was iconic,” said Omari, who worked with Shireen for 25 years.

A year after her death, Shireen’s office looks like an altar.

Withered wreaths, candles, and children’s drawings that say “I love you,” awards in her name have kept her alive for the office.

A museum by Qatar will be created in Ramallah in honor of the reporter who inspired many journalism students, especially girls.

Memorial and memories aside, the demand for justice remains unanswered one year since her killing.

Israel conducted an internal investigation and admitted that there was a “high probability” that its forces killed the journalist “by mistake.”

However, the government refused to open a criminal investigation, claiming that its troops acted according to protocol after they came under fire from Palestinian militants.

Witnesses claim no militants were present near Shireen when a bullet hit her.

A dozen independent investigations by Palestinian and Israeli organizations and media houses like the AP, The New York Times, and CNN found that she died of a bullet fired by Israeli forces.

The Palestinian Authority said its probe determined that Israeli forces deliberately shot and killed the reporter.

The FBI tried to probe, but Israel refused to cooperate.

“For us, it is important now that the soldier and the chain of command are held accountable for the murder,” says Lina Abu Akleh, the slain reporter’s niece.

The killing sparked international outrage against Israel after Israeli forces beat up the mourners at her funeral procession to the extent that her coffin almost dropped to the floor.

“The only interpretation I find is that those people don’t recognise Palestinians as human beings,” said Omari, who has taken the case to the International Criminal Court.

“For us as as colleagues of Shireen, we want the new Palestinian generation not to lose their confidence in international institutions,” he emphasized.

“Israel must understand that it can no longer act with impunity when it harasses and murders the journalists who are trying to undertake their professional duties.”

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, at least 20 journalists have been killed by Israeli forces since 2002.

An estimated 100 Palestinian reporters have been killed since 1967 when the Israeli occupation began.

Shireen’s colleagues have learned to live without her but prefer not to talk.

But in the heat of the editorial discussions in between the long newsroom hours, the star reporter usually finds mentions.

“Shireen wanted this, Shireen did that, Shireen covered this news like this, so we remember her all the time, every second,” said Omari, a brooch with her image on the lapel of his jacket he has been wearing since the day of her death.

“Sometimes when I´m sitting here I imagine that she will enter.”

Al-filfil (pepper in Arabic), Shireen’s dog, is also waiting for her.

“He would sleep on her personal belongings, like her bag, he would smell and smell her bag, especially the one they brought from Jenin,” said Lina.

Lina pointed out the family did not even dare to call Shireen’s nickname, Shushu.

“Whenever we do, he jumps to the door and waits for her.” EFE