Palestinian journalist from Milton says she was fired ‘for speaking up about Palestine’


Published November 2, 2023 at 7:57 pm

Zahraa Al-Akhrass Palestinian journalist Milton Global News Israel-Hamas war journalism free speech Israel Palestine
Zahraa Al-Akhrass, seen in a screenshot from her Instagram video, says her former employer Global News fired her because of her social media posts on the Israel-Hamas war.

Editor’s note: The Instagram videos, particularly the one at the bottom of the story, contain several short clips from the Israel-Hamas war that may upset some readers.

A Palestinian journalist from Milton says she was fired for expressing her beliefs, including her opposition to “Israel’s genocide” of her people.

Video journalist Zahraa Al-Akhrass accused her former employer Global News of being “discriminatory and arbitrary.”

She said Global News, owned by Corus, never cited any of the posts that caused concerns when it recently fired her.

She said she wasn’t given a chance to explain herself, have a discussion, ask questions, or obtain guidance on how to approach the topic.

“Being their only Palestinian journalist in the newsroom, I thought my voice would matter the most to them during these times. But maybe I was mistaken,” said Al-Akhrass in a video she posted on Instagram on Oct. 29. Al-Akhrass, who said she was fired while she was on maternity leave, worked for Global News as a full-time video journalist since February 2020. “I felt so disrespected and neglected as a Palestinian employee of this organization. Not a single word of sympathy from anyone on an organizational level, but instead investigations, reminders about social media policies, demands to stop posting.”

In her latest Instagram video on Nov. 1, she gave an update and said the company offered her “an amount of money in exchange for me to stay quiet.”

Al-Akhrass said her employment was terminated “with cause,” meaning the company wasn’t legally required to pay her severance.

“I only see this as an intimidation tactic to further silence me,” she said about the alleged money offer. “This pattern of shutting down the Palestinian narrative must stop. The voice of Palestine must always be heard loud and clear.”

She said she didn’t know what social media post or posts about the Israel-Hamas war caused her to be fired. The company never cited any of these posts when they fired me. In fact, despite asking them repeatedly to advise me which posts were causing concerns so that I could consider taking them down, they refused to identify any specific posts. Instead, they demanded I had to remove all posts and never post again.”

The current war has been called the deadliest of the five wars between Israel and Hamas since 2007.

As Palestinians like Al-Akhrass and their supporters call Israel’s bombardment and siege of the Gaza Strip a “genocide,” pro-Israel advocates and Israel itself deny that accusation and stress the state’s right to defend itself in the wake of the Hamas attacks on Oct. 7.

The surprise attacks by Palestinian militant group Hamas spurred Israel’s recent retaliatory military actions. Hamas fighters reportedly killed at least 1,400 Israelis, mostly civilians, on Oct. 7, and over 200 Israelis were taken as hostages. Hamas, which rules over two million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, is labelled a terrorist entity in many countries, including Canada.

Since the Oct. 7 attacks and the subsequent eruption of war, 9,061 Palestinians were killed in Gaza and 134 died in the occupied West Bank, The Associated Press reported on Nov. 2. In Gaza, 22,911 Palestinians were injured and in the West Bank, the figure was 2,100. On the Israeli side, 1,400 were killed and 5,400 were hurt.

The growing crisis in Gaza has compelled a group of seven independent United Nations experts to release a statement Thursday (Nov. 2), calling for a “humanitarian ceasefire” and warning that “the Palestinian people are at grave risk of genocide.”

Global News won’t comment on specific case but says it ‘does not condone violence or discrimination of any kind’ 

In a post on X on Nov. 1, Al-Akhrass said Global’s decision to fire her “was part of a bigger pattern to silence all Palestinian voices.”

“I believe this will further polarize the public opinion with the lack of Palestinian voices and incite more hate against minority groups and lose any bit of balance left in newsrooms,” she wrote.

Global News didn’t address the specific claims in Al-Akhrass’s case. Rishma Govani, Global News spokesperson, instead provided the following statement to in response to her two Instagram posts on the matter.

“Due to confidentiality, we are unable to provide comment on specific employee matters,” Govani wrote. “However, Global News does not condone violence or discrimination of any kind toward individuals or groups. Commentary by our employees expressing or amplifying violence or discrimination against any group is not condoned and is a violation of our company policies.”

Govani said Global News respects and welcomes diverse views, but the organization “must remain fair and unbiased.”

“Our employees are expected to uphold our ethical codes including our Journalistic Principles and Practices which limit how personal opinions are shared publicly by journalists,” Govani wrote. “Global News follows rigorous processes to address all complaints received and all employees are afforded the same level of support and opportunity to resolve issues of concern.”


Journalist says her firing reflects bigger problem of ‘silencing’ those who stand up for Palestinians

Al-Akhrass’s first Instagram video about her firing on Oct. 29 went viral, attracting over 4,000 comments. Al-Akhrass detailed what she said happened that led to her dismissal. On Oct. 17, the day a blast (whose source is disputed) killed hundreds at a Gaza hospital, she said she was on a phone call with a senior leader at Global who told her she was fired because of everything she had posted on social media.

“I was told the problem is with me expressing my beliefs, my opposition (to) Israel’s genocide of my people,” she said. “Global was literally asking me to look at these horrific images, this genocide and detach myself from my own identity, my own people. Is this ethical or moral, humane or diverse or inclusive? I don’t even know.”

She said her former employer didn’t utter a single word of sympathy about the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, where the Israeli government has launched retaliatory airstrikes and a ground invasion to root out Hamas.

“I was told to take down every post and comment with hashtag Free Palestine, Gaza Genocide and Gaza Under Attack, saying that my posts make me look unbalanced,” Al-Akhrass wrote.

She said Global News also fired her because she shared a screenshot of a post, which had an image of a dead Gazan baby, with a workplace investigator as she tried to get someone to understand her pain about her people’s suffering. She said the “disturbing image” upset and “outraged” the employee and other colleagues.

“I was even told by my own union representative that even if that image was my reality, I had no right to make it the reality of that employee,” she said. “I mean, do we matter at all? No one in this workplace would even acknowledge my pain. I’m being told that my people and I should suffer in silence and die quietly, not to disturb others. We have no right.”

Al-Akhrass said the issue is about “silencing” those who stand up for Palestinians. She accused Global News of failing her as a Palestinian and as a racialized journalist.

“I have no regrets,” she said. “I’m not the first, not the last journalist to be fired for speaking up about Palestine. Seeing a genocide before my eyes and saying nothing might be unbalanced according to some standards, but that’s unethical. A policy that tells me to shut up about the killing of my own people is unethical. I cannot possibly stay silent while witnessing this injustice.”

The comments section of her Instagram post with the video was overwhelmingly positive with people praising her for speaking out about Palestine. However, in her other posts on X, some accused her of anti-Semitism.

“The ‘journalist’ was quite public in her hatred for Israel, antisemitism and delegitimization of the Jewish Homeland,” commented Moshe Appel (@MoAppel), who describes himself as a “religious Zionist,” in one of the posts on her X page.

Al-Akhrass denied accusations that she was anti-Semitic.

“I refuse such allegations. As a Muslim, myself, I can relate to the hate religious minorities experience and I have my own experiences with that,” she wrote.

She said that for the past three weeks, she has been receiving hateful comments and messages, including those “demanding I get deported for my support of Palestine, people mocking my choice to wear a hijab, people telling me to go back to the (filth) I came from.”

She said opposing the state of Israel is not about hating Jews. “My opposition to the Israeli occupation of Palestine is a political stance I’m being punished for,” she said.

She pointed out Jews, such as those belonging to the American movements Jewish Voice for Peace and Not in our name, who share her views. “In protests here in Canada and around the world we often see Jewish rabbis and believers standing in solidarity with Palestine and supporting its people’s right to freedom.”

Social media posts assail ‘Israel’s terrorism,’ ‘racist, brutal occupiers’

In one of a handful of X posts since Oct. 12, Al-Akhrass chastises western media for labelling those participating in a pro-Palestine protest in Amman, Jordan as “terrorists.” She noted that thousands were in support of Hamas.

“You cannot just label one group as terrorist because they refuse to submit to your occupation and expect the whole world to follow your racist narrative,” she wrote.

When asked by about her views on Hamas, she said it’s “irrelevant.”

“My stance on Hamas is not the topic,” she wrote. “It would be discriminatory if my former employer actually terminated my employment for my political views. That’s punishment.”

In another X post, she wrote about a traumatized Palestinian mother who she said couldn’t let go of her little girl killed by Israeli rockets in Gaza. “These scenes go completely unnoticed before the eyes of Western politicians supporting #Israel‘s terrorism and are easily dodged as collateral damage.”

She accused Israeli soldiers of being “racist, brutal occupiers who are hungry for Palestinian blood,” though she said they are often seen as “victims” in the West.

Some human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and B’Tselem, determined that Israeli rule over the Palestinians is “apartheid” under international law.

Justice for All Canada, a Mississauga-based non-profit global human rights organization, started a petition calling for “an investigation into her unjust firing.”

“Zahraa Al-Akhrass, as the only Palestinian journalist in your newsroom, played a crucial role in providing diverse perspectives and narratives,” the group wrote in its petition. “She was dedicated to highlighting the plight of Palestinians, especially during the ongoing disproportionate violence inflicted on Gaza by Israeli authorities.”

It criticized Global News for asking her to not share images and posts related to the Gaza conflict.

“The termination of her employment for doing so calls into question the principles of journalistic freedom, diversity, and ethical reporting at Global News,” it wrote.


‘Decision makers in Western newsrooms must empower us, rather than parade us for diversity and inclusion’

Al-Akhrass said she recently spoke with four journalists from various newsrooms in Canada who shared the same frustration. 

“We, as journalists of minority groups and racial backgrounds, are brought into these newsrooms supposedly to ensure a fair coverage to the stories that matter to us, that we represent, that we have a first hand experience in,” she wrote in response to‘s questions. “Yet when we speak up to inform the reporting we’re told to shut up, we’re told we’re being biased, and that we must adhere to standards of balance and fairness that are designed by organizations for those organizations and not for us.”

She said institutional bias and racism exist in newsrooms.

“We’re judged by standards that don’t relate to or speak to our experiences,” she explained. “We feel like we’re screaming in an echo chamber, trying to explain ourselves, to change the narrative, to convince decision makers that they don’t necessarily know better.”

As a Palestinian, she said she understands the reality of her people better than those newsroom leaders who don’t have that experience.

“Decision makers in Western newsrooms must empower us, rather than parade us for diversity and inclusion,” she wrote. “They must become more modest and accept the fact that we know better about the issues that matter to us.”

While at Global News, she said they had informative mandatory sessions on diversity and inclusion. She suggests that it should be the other way around. “Instead of teaching employees on diversity and inclusion, have racialized journalists arrange classes on diversity and inclusion for decision makers,” she said.


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