World Press Freedom Day: OPC Names ‘Continuing Coverage of Conflict’ Award for Slain Journalist Shireen Abu Akleh

New York, May 3, 2024 – On World Press Freedom Day, the Overseas Press Club’s board of governors announced that it is naming the Continuing Coverage of Conflict Award, a new category created in 2024 to honor deep, dedicated reporting that sustains focus on underreported conflicts and global crises, after Shireen Abu Akleh, a prominent Palestinian-American journalist who was killed during an assignment in 2022.

Abu Akleh, who worked for Al Jazeera for more than 25 years, was known for her intimate reports chronicling the stories of ordinary Palestinians. In May 2022, she was killed while covering an Israeli military operation in the West Bank, sparking a rallying cry for press freedom in the region. 

A household name across the Middle East, Abu Akleh’s reporting inspired many young people across the region and North Africa to follow in her path in journalism. “I chose journalism to be close to the people,” Abu Akleh explained in an interview before her death. “It might not be easy to change the reality, but at least I was able to bring their voice to the world.”

Naming this award for Abu Akleh highlights the OPC’s commitment to protect press freedom. More journalists have been killed in the current Israel-Hamas war than in any previous conflict the Committee to Protect Journalists has monitored. It also acknowledges the vital role that journalists play in covering conflict everywhere, especially after the world’s attention has moved on. 

The OPC, which has given awards for meritorious international correspondence since 1939, is devoted to advocating for press freedom where it is under threat across the globe and shining a light on instances where journalists have been killed, harassed or imprisoned while doing this important work.

The idea of naming the award for Abu Akleh was first raised by the club last summer as part of a broader club  effort to expand the universe of journalists it recognizes when it places their names on awards for coverage of international news.  

In April, the Reuters series “Slaughter in Sudan” was recognized with the  inaugural Continuing Coverage of Conflict Award at the 85th Annual Overseas Press Club Awards. “While much of the world’s attention focused on the wars in Gaza and Ukraine, this Reuters series bore witness to a systematic massacre in Sudan that has gone largely unreported,” wrote the judges about the winning entry. “Trenchant, moving, and deeply probing, the series lays bare how one side in Sudan’s civil war unleashed a campaign of ethnic slaughter against the Masalit people of West Darfur.” 

The Overseas Press Club of America is the nation’s oldest and largest association of journalists engaged in international news. Each year, it awards the most prestigious prizes devoted exclusively to international news coverage. It was founded in 1939 by nine foreign correspondents in New York City, and has grown to nearly 500 members worldwide. The club’s mission is to uphold the highest standards in news reporting, advance press freedom and promote good fellowship among colleagues while educating a new generation of journalists.