The MintPress podcast “The Watchdog,” hosted by British-Iraqi hip hop artist Lowkey, closely examines organizations about which it is in the public interest to know – including intelligence, lobby, and special interest groups influencing policies that infringe on free speech and target dissent. The Watchdog goes against the grain by casting a light on stories largely ignored by the mainstream, corporate media.
The cold-blooded killing of Shireen Abu Akleh earlier this month has made headlines around the world. An Israeli sniper shot the veteran Al Jazeera journalist in the head while she was reporting on their raid on a refugee camp in the West Bank city of Jenin.
Shireen’s niece Lina Abu Akleh first heard of the news from her father, who phoned her early in the morning to tell her Shireen was injured. Today, Watchdog host Lowkey speaks to Lina about her aunt’s work, legacy, and the ongoing war against the press.
“I never expected that she was in a critical condition, let alone have to hear from her colleague that ‘your aunt is a martyr now.’ Those five minutes were the most difficult of my entire life. I don’t think it will get worse than that,” she told Lowkey, recounting her ordeal. “But the support from everyone has been very comforting. The love and respect that everyone has shown her and us is something we will forever be thankful for.” A native of Jerusalem, Lina previously worked for the Palestinian Counselling Center and as a research assistant at the University of San Francisco.
Having reported on the Israeli occupation for two decades, Shireen was one of the most recognizable faces in the region. Her colleagues at Al Jazeera described her as a “trailblazer who gave voice to Palestinians,” and someone who became a “household name across the Arab world for her bold coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
Lina enjoyed a very close relationship with her aunt, seeing her as a role model, her best friend and a second mother. “She always found the bright side of life, despite its tragedies,” she told Lowkey, revealing that the fame never got to her head. “She was very humble,” she added.
“My heart aches beyond words,” Lina wrote on the day of the murder, adding, “I will make sure that your legacy lives on. You are an icon, my hero, my Angel. Rest in power.”
Abu Akleh’s funeral became a national event attended by thousands. Israeli forces, who had raided her home hours after they shot her, stormed the funeral, beating mourners and pallbearers alike. This attack was whitewashed as a mere “clash” in much of the Western press – a fact that caused a storm of public outrage and considerable pushback. Thus in her life Abu Akleh exposed the reality of the Israeli occupation, and in her death she exposed the media’s complicity in Apartheid.
Lowkey was keen to note that Abu Akleh’s killing was far from a one-off event. “The crime that was carried out against Shireen is an extension of the wider war against journalism, which Israel pursues in many different ways,” he said, adding:
The same way that Shireen was killed (despite the fact that she was clearly identified as a journalist) is not dissimilar to the way that Yasser Murtaja was killed when Palestinians in Gaza were attempting to fulfill their right of return under UN resolution 194. Yasser was wearing the word “Press” across his chest when he was shot by an Israeli sniper.”
Lowkey also noted that Israel has killed 55 journalists since 2000 and injured at least 144 since 2018 alone. Between 10 and 15 Palestinian journalists are in Israeli jails or prisons at this moment. Thus, “This war against confrontational journalism has been long-running,” he said.
Lowkey is a British-Iraqi hip-hop artist, academic and political campaigner. As a musician, he has collaborated with the Arctic Monkeys, Wretch 32, Immortal Technique and Akala. He is a patron of Stop The War Coalition, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, the Racial Justice Network and The Peace and Justice Project, founded by Jeremy Corbyn. He has spoken and performed on platforms from the Oxford Union to the Royal Albert Hall and Glastonbury. His latest album, Soundtrack To The Struggle 2, featured Noam Chomsky and Frankie Boyle and has been streamed millions of times.