Shireen Abu Akleh: The Palestinians’ voice and face to the Arab world

“She was a fearless reporter,” said one of her colleagues. “She never hesitated to go to places where clashes were taking place. She loved her work.”

 Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh who was killed during live fire exchange between Palestinians and IDF, May 11, 2022.  (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh who was killed during live fire exchange between Palestinians and IDF, May 11, 2022.
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

For many Palestinians, Shireen Abu Akleh, the veteran Al Jazeera reporter who was killed during an IDF raid in Jenin on Wednesday morning, was more than just a journalist.

For the past two decades, Abu Akleh, a resident of east Jerusalem, became known as one of the main voices and faces of the Palestinians on the popular Qatari-owned TV network.

She was one of the few Palestinian female journalists who reported from the field, especially in Jerusalem and the West Bank. Some of her colleagues described her as the “Palestinian war correspondent.”

Read more on the death of journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in Jenin:

“She was a fearless reporter,” said one of her colleagues. “She never hesitated to go to places where clashes were taking place. She loved her work.”

Many of Abu Akleh’s colleagues appreciated her courage in reporting from the scenes of clashes between Israeli policemen and soldiers. They also described her as one of the most professional female journalists.

 Joint LIst MKs Ayman Odeh, Aida Touma-Sliman and Ofer Cassif visit the family of killed journalist  Shireen Abu Akleh on May 11, 2022.  (credit: JOINT LIST SPOKESPERSON'S OFFICE) Joint LIst MKs Ayman Odeh, Aida Touma-Sliman and Ofer Cassif visit the family of killed journalist Shireen Abu Akleh on May 11, 2022. (credit: JOINT LIST SPOKESPERSON'S OFFICE)

The 51-year-old reported extensively on the situation in the city, including the violence that erupted at the Aqsa Mosque compound, the Old City’s Damascus Gate and the neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah.

Abu Akleh also reported on the situation in the West Bank with a focus on clashes between IDF soldiers and Palestinians, often appearing on Al Jazeera wearing the battle gear of a helmet and flak jacket with the word “PRESS” emblazoned on it in bright letters.

Once asked about the dangers she faces while covering the violence, Abu Akleh replied: “Death was always a short distance away. During the difficult moments, I overcame the fear. I chose journalism to be close to the human being. It’s probably not easy for me to change the reality, but at least I was able to communicate that voice to the world.”

Abu Akleh rose to fame during the Second Intifada, which erupted in 2000. Her reporting on the daily violence turned her into one of the most popular reporters in the eyes of Al Jazeera’s millions of viewers in the Arab world.

She was also known for her criticism of Israel. In one of her recent tweets, she wrote: “No Arab will be able to ignore the Palestinian issue, no matter how much Israel tries to marginalize this issue.”

Abu Akleh, whose family is originally from Bethlehem, was raised in east Jerusalem, where she went to the Rosary Sisters’ School.

After completing her studies in journalism in Jordan, she returned to the city, where she initially worked for the UN Relief and Work Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA). She was later hired by the PA’s Voice of Palestine radio station and Monte Carlo radio’s Arab news department. In 1997, she began working for Al Jazeera’s newly established Jerusalem bureau.