A Trailblazing Palestinian Journalist Dies, Aged 51


JERUSALEM — Shireen Abu Akleh originally studied to be an architect but her career took a different path after she decided to go into journalism instead, becoming one of the most well-known Palestinian journalists.

A Palestinian American, Ms. Abu Akleh became a familiar face on the Al Jazeera network, where she spent 25 years reporting, making her name amid the violence of the Palestinian uprising known as the second intifada, which convulsed Israel and the occupied West Bank beginning in 2000.

“I chose journalism to be close to the people,” she said in a short reel shared by Al Jazeera soon after she was killed on Wednesday by gunfire in the West Bank. “It might not be easy to change the reality, but at least I was able to bring their voice to the world.”

Ms. Abu Akleh was shot in the head in the occupied city of Jeni, Al Jazeera and the Palestinian health ministry said, blaming Israeli forces for her death. The Israeli military said on Twitter that “Palestinian armed gunfire” may have been responsible.

Born in Jerusalem to a Roman Catholic family, Ms. Abu Akleh studied in Jordan, graduating with a bachelor’s in journalism, according to the Palestinian agency Shehab News. She also spent time in the United States where she received U.S. citizenship.

Al Jazeera said that after graduating from college in Jordan, Ms. Abu Akleh had worked for several media outlets, including Voice of Palestine radio and the Amman Satellite Channel, before joining Al Jazeera.

Ms. Abu Akleh joined Al Jazeera, a Pan-Arab news network, in 1997 and soon became a household name among Palestinians and Arabs across the Middle East, inspiring many to follow in her path. Al Jazeera said she was 51 at the time of the death.

Her live TV reporting and signoffs became iconic for those who wanted to emulate her, said Dalia Hatuqa, a friend of Ms. Abu Akleh and another Palestinian American journalist.

“I know of a lot of girls who grew up basically standing in front of a mirror and holding their hair brushes and pretending to be Shireen,” Ms. Hatuqa said. “That’s how lasting and important her presence was.”

Her death also illustrated the dangers Palestinian journalists face doing their jobs, whether in the occupied West Bank, in Gaza or inside Israel, she said.

“Shireen was a trailblazer,” Ms. Hatuqa said. “I’m just sad that she won’t be around to continue to lead in this industry.”

The Palestinian Authority’s ambassador to Britain, Husam Zomlot, called her the “most prominent Palestinian journalist.”





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