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Al Jazeera wants a thorough and fair investigation into Shireen Abu Akleh's death


Journalists generally do not like to be at the center of the stories they cover, but the killing of journalist Shereen Abu Aqleh earlier this week has placed another spotlight on the dangers that journalists face, especially those reporting in some parts of the world or reporting on certain conflicts. That's because Abu Aqleh, a highly experienced reporter for Al Jazeera, was shot and killed Wednesday while reporting on an Israeli military raid of a Palestinian refugee camp. Her funeral yesterday in East Jerusalem was the site of clashes between Israeli police and mourners. Videos circulating on social media show police beating mourners with batons, and the pallbearers were shaken for a moment, nearly dropping the casket carrying the deceased.

All this has sparked additional outrage among her colleagues and observers who are now raising questions about whether she was targeted for her reporting. To talk more about Shereen Abu Aqleh and what her death means for journalists, we've called Abderrahim Foukara. He is the Washington bureau chief for Al Jazeera, and he is with us now. Abderrahim, welcome. Thank you for joining us. And please allow me to express condolences on the death of your colleague.

ABDERRAHIM FOUKARA: Thank you, Michel.

MARTIN: Could you just first tell us a bit more about her? What do you remember most about her?

FOUKARA: Well, she's been with Al Jazeera since 1997. So as you already said, she's a very experienced reporter. And she's covered many, many, many conflicts over the years. She also did a stint with us here in D.C. She came to help with the coverage of Al Jazeera's coverage of the U.S. elections. As an American citizen, she obviously knew very well the American political scene. And she is self-effaced as a person. She is intrepid as a reporter. Let me just say that Shereen - everything that I've known about her as a reporter, and by the testimony of everybody who's worked with her, for her, the story is never about herself. The story has always been the story that she is covering. That's the kind of reporter she was.

MARTIN: So there is a dispute about what happened. Is it the position of Al Jazeera - Al Jazeera has accused, I think, Israeli defense forces of not being honest about the circumstances. Could you just tell us specifically about what is the position of those who were with Shaheen at the time?

FOUKARA: Al Jazeera has been categorical that it was an Israeli bullet that killed Shereen. There were - some of her colleagues were with her on the scene. It was the other reporter who was shot in the back. There were others who were able to ascertain for Al Jazeera that the bullets came from the Israeli side, that it was an Israeli bullet. Al Jazeera now is calling for an open, transparent and fair investigation, not - for the shooting, for the killing of Shereen not to be whitewashed by some investigation which is not fair or transparent, to show the whole world exactly what happened.

MARTIN: Before we let you go, I know that the safety of Al Jazeera journalists and their ability to function as journalists has been difficult in many parts of the world. I know, for example, there are still four Al Jazeera journalists who are being - who are still in prison in Egypt, for example. More broadly, are you concerned about the ability of journalists in general and Al Jazeera journalists in particular to do their jobs?

FOUKARA: So, you know, as we all know, you know, killing journalists and suppressing freedom of the press has become almost a global epidemic. And Al Jazeera has been together with many news - other news organizations that have been calling for an end to impunity. Oftentimes, as people, journalists, get killed, there are investigations. The cases are whitewashed, and there is - nobody is held to account. And, you know, maybe with the killing of Shereen, at least the hope of Al Jazeera is that it may usher in a new era when impunity is basically taken a little bit - the issue of impunity is taken a little bit more seriously around the world.

MARTIN: That was Abderrahim Foukara. He is the Washington bureau chief for Al Jazeera. Abderrahim, thank you so much for joining us once again. And again, our condolences on the loss of this esteemed colleague.

FOUKARA: Thank you, Michel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.