The IPI global network welcomes the news that the United States has opened an investigation into the killing of Palestinian-American journalist and IPI World Press Freedom Hero Shireen Abu Akleh, who was fatally shot during a raid by Israeli forces in the West Bank in May 2022. IPI urges U.S. authorities to ensure that the investigation is fully transparent, independent, and credible and follows the evidence wherever it leads. 

Israel confirmed on Monday that the U.S. Department of Justice has launched an FBI investigation into the death of the Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who was a U.S. citizen, according to multiple media reports. Israel also made it clear it will not cooperate with any external investigation, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz announced on Twitter. Gantz said Israel will not allow “interference” in the country’s internal affairs.

News that the US opened an investigation has come after months of pressure by Abu Akleh’s family as well as press freedom groups, including IPI. In November, IPI joined with four other press freedom groups to publish a full-page ad in the Washington Post calling for an independent, U.S.-led investigation into Abu Akleh’s killing. At the IPI World Congress in September, IPI members around the world unanimously passed a resolution demanding justice for Abu Akleh and a “transparent, credible, and independent” U.S.-led investigation given Israel’s “abject failure” to secure accountability.

Independent media investigations have concluded that Abu Akleh – known for her fearless and professional reporting on the Palestinian conflict – was killed by Israeli sniper fire while covering the Israseli raid on a refugee camp in Jenin. She was wearing a vest and a helmet, clearly marked as “press.”’

While initially denying responsibility, the Israeli government admitted in September that there was a “high possibility” that Abu Akleh was hit by its forces, but claimed this was accidental and refused to pursue any further investigation.

In a statement released today, Abu Akleh’s family said they are “encouraged” by the news and “hope that the United States will use all of the investigative tools at its disposal to get answers about Shireen’s killing and hold those who are responsible for this atrocity accountable.”

IPI joins Abu Akleh’s family in calling for a thorough and credible investigation. “We welcome the news of an U.S.-led investigation into the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh, which is what IPI and others have been calling for over the past six months”, IPI Deputy Director Scott Griffen said. “We now urge the U.S. authorities to ensure that their investigation is credible, transparent, and independent, and that all who are responsible for this horrific killing are brought to justice.”

He added: “The Israeli authorities should cooperate fully in this investigation in the interest of ensuring justice for Shireen, her colleagues and family. Impunity should not be tolerated in any circumstances. An attack on a journalist anywhere is an attack on democracy everywhere.”

In August, IPI and International Media Support honoured Abu Akleh with the 2022 World Press Freedom Hero award, noting: “Abu Akleh dedicated her career to reporting on a range of issues in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories, often risking her life to work on the frontlines. She inspired millions across the Arab world with her professionalism and dedication to pursuing the truth.”