UN calls for investigation into murder of Al Jazeera journalist in West Bank

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The 51-year-old Palestinian-American journalist was shot and killed while covering an Israeli military operation in the West Bank city of Jenin. Its producer Ali Samoudi was also injured, according to the media.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres issued a statement on Wednesday saying he was “appalled by the murder”.

“He calls on the relevant authorities to carry out an independent and transparent investigation into this incident and to hold those responsible to account,” his spokesperson said in a press statement.

“The Secretary-General condemns all attacks and killings of journalists and stresses that journalists must never be targets of violence. Media professionals must be able to carry out their work freely and without harassment, intimidation or fear of being targeted,” he added.

Violation of international law

Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), also issued a statement condemning the assassination.

Ms Abu Akleh was shot “despite the fact that she was wearing a jacket with the word ‘press’ written on it”, she said. “The killing of a clearly identified media worker in a conflict zone is a violation of international law. I call on the relevant authorities to investigate this crime and bring those responsible to justice.”

Ms. Azoulay recalled that UNESCO works to raise awareness on the need to protect journalists, in particular through the United Nations Action Plan on the Safety of Journalists and the issue of impunity.

High rate of attacks against Palestinian journalists

On Friday, in a joint statement, four United Nations human rights experts also condemned the murder of the Al-Jazeera journalist and called for a prompt, transparent, thorough and independent investigation into her death.

Experts said the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh comes against the backdrop of a high rate of attacks against media workers, especially Palestinian journalists. More than 40 Palestinian journalists have reportedly been killed since 2000, and hundreds injured or targeted in violence. Palestinian women journalists also regularly face violence in the course of their work simply because they are journalists.

“Abu Akleh’s murder is yet another serious attack on media freedom and freedom of expression, amid escalating violence in the occupied West Bank,” the experts said.

These four experts are: Francesca Albanese, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967; Morris Tidball-Binz, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Reem Alsalem, Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences; and Irene Khan, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression.

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