How a new journalism scholarship aims to keep Shireen Abu Akleh’s legacy alive

Special How a new journalism scholarship aims to keep Shireen Abu Akleh’s legacy alive
A mural of slain of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh who was shot dead during an Israeli military raid in the West Bank town of Jenin, adorns a wall in Gaza City, in May 2022. (AP/File)
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Updated 12 June 2024
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How a new journalism scholarship aims to keep Shireen Abu Akleh’s legacy alive

How a new journalism scholarship aims to keep Shireen Abu Akleh’s legacy alive
  • Palestinian-American reporter was shot dead by an Israeli soldier on May 11, 2022 while covering a raid in the West Bank
  • The Shireen Abu Akleh Foundation will provide ten annual scholarships to aspiring journalists and media professionals

DUBAI: It has been two years since the killing of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. For her niece Lina Abu Akleh, her aunt’s death, which sent shockwaves around the world, “feels like it was just yesterday, but also feels like it was a lifetime ago.” 

On May 11, 2022, the former Al Jazeera reporter was shot dead by an Israeli soldier while covering a raid in a refugee camp in Jenin in the occupied West Bank, despite wearing a distinctive blue flak jacket embossed with the word “press.”

Initially, then-Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett accused Palestinian fighters of shooting Shireen — an allegation that was quickly disproven by independent reports.

At the time, many called Shireen’s death “a black day” not only for Palestine but also for journalism and the wider news industry.




Palestinian mourners carry the casket of slain Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh from a church toward the cemetery, during her funeral procession in Jerusalem, on May 13, 2022. (AFP)

To highlight her important contribution to journalism, and to coincide with the second anniversary of her death, Shireen’s family launched a foundation in her honor devoted to helping young reporters break into the industry.

A central aim of the California-based Shireen Abu Akleh Foundation is to provide ten scholarships on an annual basis for Palestinian and international students who aspire to become journalists and media professionals. 

Under the motto “journalism is not a crime,” the foundation is raising funds and working in collaboration with media outlets and higher education institutions in Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, the UK and Canada to reach top students for scholarship opportunities. 

“We wanted to launch a foundation to honor Shireen’s legacy, empower more journalists who want to continue their education in journalism, but also for people to remember who Shireen was, to remember her story, to remember what she stood for as a Palestinian-American female journalist,” Lina, who is the foundation’s co-founder, told Arab News.

The foundation aims to promote community empowerment by increasing access to education and inclusive spaces for students by connecting them with opportunities in the field of journalism.

It also aims to collaborate with communities to raise funds for students and to amplify public appreciation and recognition of journalistic talent.

Several universities and organizations around the world have already named courses and scholarships after Shireen, including Jordan’s Yarmouk University and Jordan Media Institute, the UK’s University of Exeter, Canada’s Carleton University, the West Bank’s Birzeit University, Lebanon’s American University of Beirut, and even the UN.




A reporter wearing a flak jacket with the hashtag in Arabic, “#Shireen Abu Akleh” takes a picture inside a house that was burnt during an Israeli military raid in the West Bank city of Jenin, on May 13, 2022. (AFP)

The foundation’s mission could not be more relevant today. According to Reporters Without Borders, more than 100 Palestinian journalists, including at least 22 in the line of duty, have been killed by the Israeli army since the Oct. 7 Hamas-led attack on southern Israel triggered Israel’s retaliatory operation in Gaza.

“I know how discouraging this might be for people out there who want to study journalism. But at the same time, that shouldn’t stand in the way of wanting to study journalism, because there is no truth without journalism,” said Lina, who is herself a journalist.

In 2022, Lina landed a spot in Time Magazine’s “Next 100” List, highlighting emerging personalities in the fields of art, innovation and leadership. Lina says she doesn’t want to be known as an activist but simply as “Shireen’s niece.”

FastFact

More than 100 Palestinian journalists, including at least 22 in the line of duty, have been killed by the Israeli army since Oct. 7.

Source: Reporters Without Borders

The two were very close, she says, speaking every day, playing the online game “Wordle,” and enjoying Sunday lunches with family. She remembers her aunt as caring, funny, and thoughtful, despite her demanding job.  

“She was someone very important to me, like a second mother,” said Lina. “She was our support system. She was more like a friend. We relied on her in every way possible. She was always there for me and my siblings and my parents. She always made time for us. 

“We miss having her so much around the table during holidays and celebrations. Nothing has been the same without her.”

In May 2022, immediately after Shireen’s death, the family filed a complaint with the International Criminal Court. In December of the same year, Al Jazeera also filed a formal complaint with the ICC for war crimes.

Four months after the killing, an Israeli army investigation admitted that there was a “high probability” that she had been “accidentally hit” by Israeli fire, while stating that it had no intention of bringing criminal proceedings against the soldiers involved. 

A year later, in May 2023, Israel Defense Forces spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari declared the army was “deeply sorry about the death of Shireen Abu Akleh.” 




To highlight her important contribution to journalism, and to coincide with the second anniversary of her death, Shireen’s family launched a foundation in her honor devoted to helping young reporters break into the industry. (Supplied)

Since then, despite several independent investigations proving that an Israeli soldier shot Shireen, who was clearly identified as a news professional, no one has been punished.

Although Shireen was a US citizen, the US Security Coordinator only visited the site of the shooting and did not pursue an independent investigation, basing its conclusions on those of the Israeli army and the Palestinian Authority, as well as a ballistics report. 

A Department of Justice investigation is reportedly still underway.

Meanwhile, the International Press Institute and other press freedom monitors have called on Israel to conduct a credible investigation and to hold those responsible to account. 

They have also urged the ICC to open an investigation into the circumstances of the killing to determine whether it amounts to a war crime under the Rome Statute.




A woman walks past a mural depicting slain Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who was killed while covering an Israeli army raid in Jenin, drawn along Israel’s controversial separation barrier in Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank on July 6, 2022. (AFP)

Lina still recalls the phone call from her father in which she learnt of her aunt’s death. 

“Looking back, it’s still heartbreaking and tragic,” she said. “It’s something that until this day I cannot comprehend and process, the fact that we lost Shireen in such a brutal, horrific way.”

On Shireen’s birthday — April 3, 2022 — Lina traveled from the US to Ramallah in the West Bank to spend the Easter weekend with family. 

In early May, there were Israeli incursions into Jenin. Although Shireen was urged by her family to take some time off from work. “She said: ‘I can’t, I have to go,’” Lina recalled. 

“Shireen was very committed to her work. She was very loyal and would have never said no to any sort of deployment.” 




Lina Abu Akleh, the niece of slain Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, sits surrounded by photographs of her late aunt, at the family home in occupied east Jerusalem, on July 13, 2022. (AFP)

Lina and her family could never have imagined the tragedy that would follow, or the global attention that Shireen’s death would attract as they try to privately grieve their loss.

“From the day she was killed, we had numerous reporters inside our house to get a statement from the family,” said Lina. “My father was not at home at that time. He arrived later in the night at about 10 PM. We were still trying to comprehend as we were in a state of shock. 

“I was the one in position who had to take the role of saying something. It was definitely not something I would see myself doing had she not been killed but I felt that Shireen would have stepped up in the moment.”

On May 13, Shireen’s funeral took place in Jerusalem with thousands of mourners in attendance. However, the procession soon descended into chaos when Israeli riot police charged the crowd. 

At one point, Shireen’s casket almost fell on the ground amid the scuffle. Lina says it was one of the most traumatic days of her life.




Shireen’s funeral took place in Jerusalem with thousands of mourners in attendance. However, the procession soon descended into chaos when Israeli riot police charged the crowd. (AFP)

“I always say this: It was the second time they killed Shireen,” she said. “First in Jenin, and then in Jerusalem. The attack on her funeral was beyond horrific. It was a violation to her dignity, to our right as a family to bury and mourn her in peace. But for us, it felt like an attempt to silence her, and it felt like she was reporting on her own funeral.”

However, Lina says she was also moved by the outpouring of love and support that Shireen and her family received from all over the world.

“It gives our family some solace and comfort to know how Shireen was loved, but at the same time, appreciated for the work she’s been doing for the past 25 years,” said Lina.

“It’s something that resonated with so many Palestinians and Arabs around the world, considering how influential, empowering, courageous and brave she was.

“She never viewed herself as a public figure or as a celebrity. She cared for the people. That’s why she chose journalism. I don’t think she would have even imagined she was going to become this icon. It makes me proud.”


EU court rejects TikTok challenge against new EU digital rules

EU court rejects TikTok challenge against new EU digital rules
Updated 17 July 2024
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EU court rejects TikTok challenge against new EU digital rules

EU court rejects TikTok challenge against new EU digital rules
  • TikTok owner ByteDance is one of the six “gatekeepers” under Digital Markets Act facing the curbs
  • TikTok claimed to be acting as the “most capable challenger” to digital monopolies

LUXEMBOURG: TikTok lost an appeal Wednesday to escape new digital rules that seek to rein in the power of big tech after an EU court rejected its challenge.
A landmark European Union law known as the Digital Markets Act (DMA) entered into force in March, and regulators believe it will create a fairer market.
The European Commission designated six “gatekeepers” under the DMA facing the curbs: Google parent Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Meta, Microsoft — and TikTok owner ByteDance, the only non-US company.
The EU said in May that Booking would also have to apply the law and gave the online travel agent six months to prepare for compliance.
The decision by the Luxembourg-based General Court is the first judgment on a DMA challenge by big tech, with cases lodged by Apple and Meta still pending.
“The Court dismisses ByteDance’s action,” it said. TikTok can appeal against the ruling within two months and 10 days of the decision.
TikTok had insisted it was the “most capable challenger” to entrenched players in the digital sphere, but the court dismissed that argument.
“TikTok had succeeded in increasing its number of users very rapidly and exponentially, reaching, in a short time, half the size of Facebook and of Instagram, and a particularly high engagement rate, with young users in particular, who spent more time on TikTok than on other social networks,” the court said in a statement.
The judges acknowledged that in 2018, video sharing app TikTok was indeed a challenger but it had since then “rapidly consolidated its position and even strengthened that position over the following years” despite the launch of similar rival services.


“We are disappointed with this decision. TikTok is a challenger platform that provides important competition to incumbent players,” a spokesperson said in a statement.
“While we will now evaluate next steps, we already took measures to comply with the relevant obligations of the DMA ahead of last March’s deadline.”
But the court determined “ByteDance met the quantitative thresholds laid down in the DMA.”
For Brussels to name a company as a gatekeeper, they must fulfil certain conditions.
The criteria include having more than 45 million monthly active users in the EU and more than 10,000 yearly active business users established in the bloc.
Digital companies with an annual turnover in the EU of at least 7.5 billion euros ($8.2 billion) or a market value of above 75 billion euros also face the new curbs.
If a company violates the law, the EU can impose fines of up to 10 percent of a company’s total global turnover. This can rise to 20 percent for repeat offenders and in the most severe circumstances, the EU can order the break-up of companies.
It is the second defeat in the courts for TikTok over the DMA. It lost a bid in February to suspend the strict new rules pending the judgment handed down Wednesday.
Big tech is not happy about the new law. Apple, contesting the DMA in the courts, has been vocal in its criticism, saying it puts users’ security at risk.


Trump shooting conspiracy theories flourish on X, researchers say

Trump shooting conspiracy theories flourish on X, researchers say
Updated 17 July 2024
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Trump shooting conspiracy theories flourish on X, researchers say

Trump shooting conspiracy theories flourish on X, researchers say
  • The conspiracy theories were viewed over 215 million times on X, the watchdog Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) said

WASHINGTON: Conspiracy theories about the assassination attempt on Donald Trump received tens of millions of views on X, researchers said Tuesday, highlighting the potential for extreme falsehoods to go viral on the Elon Musk-owned platform.

The social media site, formerly named Twitter, was flooded with unsubstantiated claims soon after the shooting Saturday at a campaign rally in Butler, Pennsylvania, which left one spectator dead and a bloodied Trump injured in the ear.

Those included unfounded assertions that the assassination attempt had been “staged” or an “inside job,” while fingers were pointed at imaginary culprits such as Jews and the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad.

The conspiracy theories were viewed over 215 million times on X, the watchdog Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) said after analyzing a sample of 100 popular posts.

A majority of the posts did not carry a “Community Note,” a crowd-sourced moderation tool that Musk has promoted as the way for users to add context to the tweets, CCDH added.

In the first 24 hours alone, unsubstantiated narratives around the incident amassed more than 100 million views on X, according to the nonprofit research group Institute for Strategic Dialogue.

X did not respond to a request for comment.

Internet hoaxers also falsely identified several people as the shooter — including Italian sports journalist Marco Violi, anti-Trump protester Maxwell Yearick and comedian Sam Hyde, AFP’s fact-checkers reported.

Federal investigators have identified the shooter, who was killed on the scene, as Thomas Matthew Crooks of Pennsylvania.

In the immediate aftermath of the shooting, several social media users voiced confusion as they scrambled to obtain accurate information in what appeared to be a sea of false or misleading posts, which rapidly gained traction.

The trend illustrates the ability of falsehoods to mutate into viral political discourse on tech platforms including X, which now offer fewer guardrails as they scale back content moderation.

Researchers say some clout-chasing accounts on the platform have a financial motive to post sensational falsehoods, as X’s ad revenue-sharing program incentivizes extreme content designed to boost engagement.

“In the marketplace of disinformation — which is effectively what a lot of social media platforms have now been reduced to, a marketplace for lies — extreme content is your currency,” said Imran Ahmed, chief executive and founder of CCDH.

“The algorithms take the most outlandish content and amplify it exponentially until the entire digital world is flooded with conspiracism, disinformation and hate.”

Researchers have warned about a possible firehose of disinformation in the run up to the November election, which will take place in a deeply polarized political climate in the United States.

“Already, at an early stage in the US electoral cycle, we can see flashing warning signs that social media in the weeks and months ahead will be increasingly chaotic and rife with disinformation,” Ahmed said.


Algeria publisher closes over book controversy

Readers visit a book stall on a street  in the Algerian capital Algiers. (AFP file photo)
Readers visit a book stall on a street in the Algerian capital Algiers. (AFP file photo)
Updated 17 July 2024
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Algeria publisher closes over book controversy

Readers visit a book stall on a street  in the Algerian capital Algiers. (AFP file photo)
  • The announcement comes a week after “Houaria” won the prestigious Assia Djebar Grand Prize, an award in honor of the Algerian literary giant who died in 2015

ALGIERS: An Algerian publishing house said on Tuesday it was ceasing operations after an award-winning novel sparked uproar on social media because of its controversial themes.
“We announce that MIM Edition has closed its doors effective immediately in the face of the storm and fire,” the publisher posted on Facebook.
“Houaria,” by Inaam Bayoud, has sparked furor on social media, with many accusing it of being replete with sexual innuendo and using “coarse terms in Darija,” the Algerian dialect of Arabic.
The announcement comes a week after “Houaria” won the prestigious Assia Djebar Grand Prize, an award in honor of the Algerian literary giant who died in 2015.
“While reading the novel, we were no less concerned about values than those who claim to defend them without having read it,” said Amina Belaala, a member of the Assia Djebar Grand Prize jury that selected the book.
“We did not see in those few words any affront to morality, religion or modesty,” she added.
For literary critic Faycal Metaoui, the uproar caused by the novel is evidence of a double-standard for female writers in Algerian society.
“The author and the publisher are women. If it were written by a man, we would not have seen all this,” he told AFP.
 

 


Stabbed Iran International journalist flees to Israel over safety concerns

Stabbed Iran International journalist flees to Israel over safety concerns
Updated 16 July 2024
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Stabbed Iran International journalist flees to Israel over safety concerns

Stabbed Iran International journalist flees to Israel over safety concerns
  • Pouria Zeraati said move was a “reluctant” but necessary decision

LONDON: Iran International journalist Pouria Zeraati has fled to Israel citing safety concerns after an assassination attempt in London in March.

In an interview with The Guardian, Zeraati revealed that his move from London to an undisclosed location in Israel was a “reluctant” but necessary decision.

“The place I live right now is a little safer,” he said in an interview published Tuesday.

“There have been communications between the UK police and the police here. They know about my situation and have taken extra measures to make sure I’m safe in Israel.”

Zeraati was attacked outside his home in Wimbledon, southwest London, by three unidentified men who reportedly fled the country immediately after the attack.

Police believe the attackers were part of a criminal gang from Eastern Europe acting on behalf of the Iranian government.

Suspicion increased following a series of foiled plots aimed at kidnapping or killing employees of Iran International, a London-based network that Tehran has classified as a terrorist organization.

Zeraati, who was hospitalized with a leg injury, criticized the UK’s approach to the threat posed by Iran on British soil, saying it could not guarantee his safety.

He called for the British government to impose more stringent sanctions against Iran.

The attack on Zeraati comes amid an “unprecedented” harassment campaign against Iranian journalists living abroad.

According to a report by Reporters Without Borders, almost 90 percent of Iranian journalists said they had experienced online threats or harassment in the past five years.

In December, ITV revealed that a double agent exposed a plot orchestrated by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to assassinate two network anchors during the 2022 anti-government protests.

Similarly, journalists at the BBC’s Persian language news outlet reported being targeted with offensive messages and threats of sexual assault, with reports of family members in Iran being arbitrarily detained.

Zeraati’s move to a country at war, and at risk of further conflict, has also raised fresh questions over how safe the UK is for dissidents targeted by foreign states.


Video of driver lashing migrants in back of lorry sparks indignation in Italy

Video of driver lashing migrants in back of lorry sparks indignation in Italy
Updated 16 July 2024
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Video of driver lashing migrants in back of lorry sparks indignation in Italy

Video of driver lashing migrants in back of lorry sparks indignation in Italy
  • Video shows driver shouting at and hitting a group of Eritrean migrants with makeshift whip

LONDON: A video showing a driver lashing a group of migrants who hid in the back of his lorry to cross into France has sparked outrage in Italy.

The video, which went viral on social media, shows an unidentified driver, believed to be from Eastern Europe, shouting at and hitting a group of Eritrean migrants, mostly women, with a makeshift whip.

The incident was filmed by a passerby at a traffic center in Ventimiglia, in the Liguria region near the French border.

Police are investigating the incident but have not released further information.

The episode has ignited a nationwide debate, with Save the Children Italy condemning the images as “inhuman and demeaning.”

“Children, adolescents, and thousands of migrants arriving in Europe deserve a system that recognizes their needs, treats them with respect and dignity, and protects them from danger,” the association said in a statement, criticizing the EU’s recently approved Pact on Migration and Asylum.

According to the Italian newspaper Secolo XIX, the group had been welcomed the evening before the incident at a refugee center run by Catholic charity Caritas and spent the night at the “widespread reception point” in Ventimiglia.

Following the incident, the migrants returned to the center, where they recounted what had happened.