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Palestinian American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was killed a year ago


A year ago today, Palestinian American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was killed while doing her job, reporting in the West Bank. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, her death was not a tragic one-time event but actually part of a long, deadly pattern. A new report from the group says at least 20 journalists have been killed by Israeli military fire since 2001. And it says, quote, "to date, no one has been held accountable." Robert Mahoney is with the committee and helped edit the report and is here with us now to tell us more. Good morning.

ROBERT MAHONEY: Good morning.

MARTIN: First, would you just tell us a bit more about the 20 journalists killed?

MAHONEY: Well, of the 20 killed, 18 were Palestinians. One was a British national. And one was an Italian. And all of them were killed reporting on the ground from the West Bank or Gaza over the last two decades.

MARTIN: So it's been a year since - as we said, since Shireen Abu Akleh was killed. Authorities have had that much time to investigate it. And no one's been held responsible. Why is that?

MAHONEY: That's because we believe that the whole system of investigation, which the Israeli armed forces have set up, is actually designed to evade responsibility and to protect its soldiers from prosecution. When the authorities do open any kind of probe, it takes a long time. Evidence can get lost. Witnesses can forget their testimony. So no one is being held to account. And no one is being held to account for the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh, who, let's remember, was an American citizen.

MARTIN: So how have Israeli officials responded to claims that they're responsible for these deaths? And I'm also interested in if whether they've responded to the allegations in the report that, in fact, the investigations are kind of designed to obscure the facts.

MAHONEY: Yeah, we've been in touch with the Israeli authorities throughout the reporting of this report. And I am now in Jerusalem, where we presented the report. The Israeli authorities say they do not deliberately target civilians, and they respect press freedom. And what we think is, if that's the case, then they should open investigations into the killings of these journalists, who, let's remember, are civilians and should be given the protections afforded to civilians in a time of conflict. They should not be shot at, as many were. Of the 20 dead, there are - to add to those, there are hundreds who were badly wounded over this case. And there is one investigation that's been opened and it's a very important investigation, and that's by the FBI because Shireen was a U.S. citizen.

MARTIN: Now, the committee does have some recommendations about what could be done to prevent more journalist deaths. Can you tell us about that?

MAHONEY: Absolutely. What needs to be done is the Israeli Defense Forces needs to review its rules of engagement. Its rules of engagement are confidential, as are its probes. So we don't know what they are, in contrast to the United States Army, for example, where we do exactly know what the rules of engagement are. And the U.S. forces amend those rules of engagement on a frequent basis. So we want the Israelis to look at that. We want them to open investigations into these killings. And we want them to cooperate with the FBI investigation, and they have refused to do so.

MARTIN: And finally, before we let you go - 20 seconds here - but has there been any response to those recommendations?

MAHONEY: From the Israeli side? No. No one in the Israeli government has agreed to meet with us. Although, we do get a very friendly reception from Israeli journalists, who, like the rest of us, rely on these Palestinians to bring us the news.

MARTIN: OK. That's Robert Mahoney with the Committee to Protect Journalists. Thank you so much.

MAHONEY: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MAX RICHTER'S "THE QUALITY OF MERCY") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.