Canadian journalism school unveiling award in honour of Shireen Abu Akleh

Carleton University award ‘will maintain legacy’ of beloved journalist killed last year by Israeli forces, family says.

Yellow tape marks bullet holes on a tree and a portrait and flowers create a makeshift memorial at the site where Shireen Abu Akleh was shot and killed.
Shireen Abu Akleh, a renowned and celebrated journalist who worked with Al Jazeera for more than two decades, was killed by Israeli forces in May 2022 while reporting in the occupied West Bank [File: Majdi Mohammed/AP Photo]

One of Canada’s top journalism schools is inaugurating an award in honour of Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, whose killing by Israeli forces last year sent shockwaves around the world and spurred calls for justice and media freedom.

The Shireen Abu Akleh Emerging Reporter Award in Social Justice Journalism at Carleton University will be unveiled at an event in the Canadian capital, Ottawa, on Friday evening.

“Such scholarships will maintain her legacy, will maintain her name,” Abu Akleh’s brother, Tony Abu Akleh, said in a statement shared by the university.

“Awards like these, which honor Shireen and her contributions to journalism and her commitment to giving voice to those who live under brutal military occupation, are a way to keep her memory alive and let young journalists continue her legacy,” he added.

“And that legacy was speaking truth to power and shining a light on both the pain of injustice and the perseverance of those who live under it.”

Abu Akleh, a renowned and celebrated journalist who worked with Al Jazeera for more than two decades, was killed in May 2022 while reporting on an Israeli military raid in Jenin, a city in the north of the occupied West Bank.

Israel initially claimed that Abu Akleh may have been shot in a crossfire between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian fighters.

But video footage, several witnesses and multiple investigations by rights groups and independent media outlets showed there were no armed Palestinians in the area where Abu Akleh and other journalists were standing before Israeli soldiers started firing at them.

Israel eventually admitted that one of its soldiers likely killed the Palestinian-American journalist, but said that no criminal investigation would be conducted.

On the anniversary of Abu Akleh’s death in May, a group of United Nations experts raised alarm at the lack of accountability in the case.

“After a year, Israeli authorities have failed to hold the perpetrators of Abu Akleh’s killing accountable, while independent investigations have pointed at the culpability of Israeli forces. Justice remains, again, hostage of politics,” the experts said.

“International law demands, at minimum: an effective, thorough, independent, impartial and transparent investigation into Abu Akleh’s death.”

Monia Mazigh, a Canadian author and one of the initial donors supporting the new award at Carleton University, told Al Jazeera that having the journalist’s name associated with the prize “is very symbolic”.

Mazigh said Abu Akleh was well known across North Africa and the Middle East for her coverage of Palestine and the wider region, and had “dedicated her life” to bringing critical issues to light.

The award will also give younger journalists a chance to follow in Abu Akleh’s footsteps, Mazigh added.

Students have to submit a proposal for a project that aims to “shed light on an important social justice issue” to apply, the Canadian university has said, adding that it hopes to offer at least $5,000 per year “in perpetuity”.

For Mazigh, that means Abu Akleh’s work “will continue through other people”.

“I think it will be a great opportunity for young journalists or for aspiring journalists not only to have a role model, but also to go on the ground and do some real work … related to social justice,” she said.

Source: Al Jazeera