UNITED NATIONS (AP) – The UN Security Council on Friday evening strongly condemned the murder of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh and called for “an immediate, thorough, transparent, fair and impartial investigation.”
A press release was approved by the 15-member council after language was removed emphasizing the importance of media freedom and the need for journalists working in dangerous areas to be protected at the insistence of China and from Russia, diplomats said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the talks were private.
The council’s statement reiterated “that journalists must be protected as civilians” and also condemned the injuries suffered by Abu Akleh’s colleague.
Abu Akleh, 51, was a household name in the Arab world, revered for his coverage of Palestinian life under Israeli rule for the Al Jazeera satellite channel for the past 25 years.
She was shot dead in an Israeli military raid in the West Bank city of Jenin on Wednesday. Journalists accompanying him, including an Al Jazeera colleague who was shot and wounded, said Israeli forces fired on them when they were clearly identifiable as reporters.
Anger over Abu Akleh’s murder escalated on Friday when Israeli riot police pushed and beat the pallbearers, forcing them to briefly drop his coffin in a shocking start to his funeral procession. It turned into perhaps the biggest display of Palestinian nationalism in Jerusalem in a generation.
Israel says it is investigating the incident. He initially suggested she might have been shot by Palestinian militants, without providing evidence, but has since backtracked. Israel has called for a joint investigation with the Palestinian Authority, which administers parts of the West Bank and cooperates with it on security.
But the Palestinians rejected a joint investigation and demanded an independent international investigation.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas blamed Israel for his assassination and said he would immediately ask the International Criminal Court to investigate. The ICC launched an investigation into possible Israeli war crimes more than a year ago, an investigation that Israel has dismissed as biased.
The Security Council did not use the word international, calling for an impartial investigation and stressing the need to ensure accountability.
Negotiations on the Council statement were led by Norway, the United Arab Emirates and the United States.
Norway’s UN ambassador Mona Juul hailed the “good collaboration”, calling the protection of journalists a priority for her country.
“We are particularly concerned about the growing trend of attacks against the works of the media, and against women journalists in particular,” Juul said in a statement.
Edith M. Lederer, Associated Press