‘Use your influence with Israel,’ PEN Malta tells Ian Borg, Roberta Metsola after assassination of Al Jazeera journalist

“Words of condemnation are inadequate when Israel is allowed to break international law repeatedly”


Freedom of expression advocacy group PEN Malta has written to Foreign Affairs Minister Ian Borg and European Parliament President Robert Metsola calling on them to “use their influence” and protest the killing of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh “in the most vociferous manner” with the Israeli government.

Abu Akleh, a Palestinian-American journalist, was killed by Israeli forces on Wednesday. According to reports, she was wearing a protective vest marked with “PRESS” and standing with other journalists when she was shot dead in the West Bank town of Jenin.

Echoing the words and calls by numerous international press freedom groups, PEN Malta President Immanuel Mifsud said in the letter that the organisation is “not satisfied by the explanations given by the Israeli authorities” and doesn’t “feel it is enough to have an investigation of the nature proposed by the Israeli government”.

“As long as governments like ours keep their eyes closed to these serious violations of international law, journalists will keep getting killed for merely telling the inconvenient truth about Israel. I urge you to use all your influence so that Israel stops this attack on freedom of expression and to help ensure justice for the victims of this violence,” Mifsud wrote.

The group called for an international independent investigation to establish the facts and “ensure those responsible for this murder are held accountable”.

Pointing towards the politicians’ declarations that relations with Israel are “among [their] priorities,” Mifsud urged them to use their influence “both directly with Israel, as well as on every other international platform, to condemn this killing, which witnesses point towards the Israeli military”.

“Words of condemnation, however, are inadequate when Israel is allowed to break international law repeatedly,” the statement reads.

The killing of Shireen Abu Akleh is not the first killing of a journalist by the Israeli military.

In 2021, an Israeli air raid bombed a tower block full of residents and media offices belonging to international organisations, including Al Jazeera and Associated Press. On 7 April 2018, Israeli soldiers shot and killed photo journalist Yasser Murtaja, 31, in the Gaza Strip, while he was working. On 13 April 2018, Israeli soldiers killed photo journalist Ahmed Abu Hussein, 24, again, while he was working.

PEN said that since 2018, Israeli security forces have committed 140 violations against journalists and that over 30 journalists have been killed since 2000.

“In spite of this, Israel was allowed to carry on with impunity and avoiding justice. The total absence of any sanction or action from the international community in Israel’s regard is in itself a guarantee that these acts will keep happening and the injustice keeps growing,” it said.

An uproar of protest, tributes to the journalists, and calls for independent investigations to be carried out came from colleagues, the media community and press freedom organisations on Thursday following the news that Abu Akleh had been killed.

International press freedom organisation Reporters without Borders’ Secretary-General Christophe Deloire also underlined the importance of launching an independent international investigation. “RSF is not satisfied with Israeli foreign minister Yair Lapid’s proposal of a joint investigation,” he said.

The organisation Committee to Protect Journalists also called for a “transparent” and “international” probe.

“Israeli and Palestinian authorities should ensure that the investigation into the killing of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh is swift and transparent, that all evidence is shared with international investigators, and that those responsible are brought to justice,” they wrote in a statement on Thursday.




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