Palestine: "The killing of Shireen Abu Akleh has doubled the fear of going to the field among journalists"

Areen Al-Amleh is a Palestine public TV journalist based in Hebron and a safety trainer accredited by the IFJ. She has been working as a news correspondent for a decade and recently completed a master’s degree in Women’s Studies. Areen sheds light on the daily challenges facing women journalists in Palestine, reflects on the impact of Shireen Abu Akleh’s killing on the journalistic community and shares tips to report safely when on assignment.

Credit: Areen Al-Amleh

You work as a correspondent for Palestine public TV. What are the major challenges you are facing as a journalist reporting from Palestine? Are there any particular challenges that you endure for being a woman journalist? 

Generally, the challenges in Palestine stem from the Israeli occupation, which means we are forced to perform our duties in extremely dangerous conditions, often putting our lives at risk. Direct targeting of journalists during coverage has made the performance of our professional activity even more dangerous. The mere fact that we are journalists does no longer guarantee that we will not be targeted directly. As a woman journalist in a society not completely freed from its traditional constraints, this makes my situation and that of my fellow women journalists even more strenuous.  

The latest report of the Palestine Journalists’ Syndicate documented 479 media rights violations in the first half of 2022. Do you recall any situation where your rights as a journalist have been undermined? Can you share it with us?

Similarly to my colleagues - men and women, I have faced violations of our right to access information and the right to free expression, especially on social media. I have been detained by the Israeli occupation forces while carrying out my work, and they also confiscated our equipment and held our ID documents. I remember one situation in which I was physically pushed to prevent me from covering clashes and that time I had my equipment destroyed. Another time, I was hit by fragments of stun grenades and was involved in gas attacks on journalists’ crews. 

In May 2022, Shireen Abu Akleh was killed by the Israeli army while covering a raid in Jenin. How has her killing impacted the Palestinian journalistic community and society as she was a prominent figure in the Arab world? What does Shireen Abu Akleh’s murder tell us about the safety of journalists in Palestine? 

The killing of Shireen Abu Akleh has doubled the fear of going to the field among journalists. The murder of such a prominent journalist made the work of the rest of us even more difficult and scary, as we realise that none of us is safe. Certainly, it had a tremendous impact, and shocked society. Besides, her killing led to despair of what might happen to those who try to make their voices heard around the world.

You successfully completed the program to become a safety trainer of journalists accredited by the IFJ. Why did you choose to be part of the IFJ Safety Program in the Middle East and the Arab World and why do you think the program is relevant to the region? 

During my years studying journalism and my work as a journalist, all I knew about safety was what I have learnt by myself. After having the honour of taking part in the IFJ safety program, I can say that it is the most important training that journalism students and journalists in general can participate in as it provides the needed skills to save your life while performing your duties. Because I was born and I am working in an area classified as one of the most dangerous territories for journalists due to the Israeli occupation, I believe it is vital for all journalists in the region to learn basic safety skills.

As a trainer, which specific skills do journalists need to develop when reporting from Palestine in comparison to neighbouring countries? 

Journalists should plan their coverage before heading to the field, because a good knowledge of the place will provide them with necessary information as to what they should wear and how to safely conduct their work. Preparing a risk assessment list is also important to avoid possible dangers while reporting on the ground. 

Amongst the new generations in Palestine, would you say that there are more women working in the field of journalism than before? If so, why? 

When I entered the field of journalism a decade ago, the number of women journalists in Hebron was no more than three. However, at present, there are at least ten women journalists in the field, which shows a significant progress within the journalistic community and in society. 

Any message you would like to convey to world women journalists on 8 March?

On 8 March, I would like to congratulate all inspiring women for their role in developing their societies and for all great opportunities which encourage many women to improve their realities. 

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