National Press Club Award ceremony for Shireen Abu Akleh

Family members of journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who was killed by Israeli forces in May, were invited to the National Press Club in Washington DC on Wednesday August 31  to accept the 2022 President’s Award given posthumously to Shireen.

At the event, Shireen’s family members spoke, demanding that the US government take action against the Israeli government for assassinating Abu Akleh, who was a US citizen. 24 US Senators recently requested a US investigation of her assassination, and Representative Andre Carson recently introduced a bill in the US Congress calling for Justice for Shireen.

Shireen Abu Akleh was shot in the head with an exploding bullet by Israeli soldiers while working as a journalist for the internationally-renowned news agency Al Jazeera in Jenin, in the northern West Bank, in May. A United Nations investigation found definitively (despite Israeli claims to the contrary) that she was killed by Israeli soldiers, and “found no information suggesting that there was activity by armed Palestinians” anywhere near where Abu Akleh and other journalists were located.

The Committee to Protect Journalists has documented at least 19 cases of journalists killed since 1992 in relation to their work in Israel and the Palestinian territories. In nearly all cases, the suspected source of gunfire is the Israeli military.

The National Press Club event was held on the same day that the Palestinian Journalists’ Support Committee released its monthly report on the state of press freedom in August 2022. The Committee documented more than 119 violations against journalists, including 66 Israeli violations, and 7 violations by Palestinian internal parties. The Committee also documented 56 cases of violations by social media companies engaged in censoring reports of Israeli violations and crimes committed against the Palestinian people.

The 66 violations of press freedom by Israeli forces in August 2022 alone included the abduction of 4 journalists: Nidal Abu Aker, Mahmoud Abu Al-Hassan, Ibrahim Abu Safiya, Dina Jaradat, all of whom are still imprisoned. The Israeli military also detained 5 journalists, namely Mohammad Asho, Ahmad Al-Garabli, Raja’i Al-Khatib, Ayman Qawariq, and a number of journalists who were detained at a checkpoint near the village of Masafer Yatta.

In her statement at the event, Lina Abu Akleh, Shireen’s niece, pointed out that in the four months since her aunt was killed there has been “no accountability and no action from the U.S. administration. This is the U.S. administration’s role — to take on this case. We didn’t have the opportunity to even grieve as a family. We couldn’t mourn our dear aunt because we had to continuously call for accountability, for justice.”

National Press Club president Jen Judson pointed out in her statement that Abu Akleh was killed while wearing a vest marked PRESS. The following is the statement from the National Press Club about their decision to honor Shireen with the 2022 President’s Award.

“Our hearts go out to Shireen’s family and colleagues. Her tragic death while covering a military action in Jenin was deeply felt across the entire global journalism community. She was a highly accomplished professional and veteran broadcaster with a wide following among Al Jazeera viewers. She was also an American citizen, and we feel her loss deeply here in the United States and at the National Press Club. While questions remain about the circumstances of her shooting, based on multiple investigations it is now understood that the fatal bullet was fired from an area controlled by [Israeli] forces where no Palestinians were present. At the time no crossfire was occurring in or around the area where Shireen and her colleagues were working, leading to the conclusion that [Israeli] forces were not engaged in the return of fire.

“When Shireen left for work May 11, she donned a helmet and bullet proof vest marked PRESS but that was not all she brought to protect her. She traveled with the experience gained working regularly and over many years in the West Bank. She knew where to stand and where not to stand. She knew how to behave to survive in that very dangerous environment. Her instincts were acute. She was careful. For years her life had depended on that.

“At the time of Shireen’s death, we called for a fair and independent investigation to determine what happened. Fully understanding these events can help encourage greater safety for all journalists working in the West Bank and across the world. We see a complete investigation as part of Shireen’s legacy and in the interest of everyone who benefits from the safety of journalists and a free press. We are for peace and justice and we recognize the acute suffering of many families — both Palestinian and Israeli — from these troubles. We are for safer conditions for all journalists who cover conflict. And we do admit we pay particular attention to the safety of American journalists wherever they work.

“We hope that a complete investigation will provide a degree of justice for Shireen and her family and improved respect and safety for all journalists working in the West Bank and other conflict areas. We honor Shireen with The President’s Award for her life’s work and with the hope that her death will help create a legacy that makes her colleagues safer now and in the future. And we remain committed to efforts that help push for complete and thorough investigation.”

The President’s award is given at the discretion of the President of the National Press Club. Past recipients of the President’s Award include: Richard C. Hottelet of CBS News, who was captured and held behind German lines in World War II, and Brian Lamb, the founder of C-SPAN.