4 Nov 2014

Serena Shim’s death: why conclusions without evidence are stupid

Turkey – quite rightly – has an abysmal international reputation for its treatment of journalists. Many years ago in eastern Turkey I was arrested more times than the number of days I was actually in that country attempting to do my job.  So I hold no brief to be forgiving about this country’s mistreatment of journalists, domestic or foreign.


(Picture: Serena Shim, Press TV, from Twitter)

Thus, the sudden, terrible death in an apparent road accident of the US journalist Serena Shim, in southern Turkey on 19 October, has been greeted by some as deeply suspicious.

She worked for the Iranian government-funded Press TV network on the Syrian-Turkish border and she had reported that she had been threatened by Turkish authorities, accused of being a spy, just before her death.

The issue, as she saw it, was that she had reported “evidence” of IS militants crossing that border using aid vehicles:

“I’m very surprised at this accusation – I even thought of approaching Turkish intelligence because I have nothing to hide… I am a bit worried, because… Turkey has been labelled by Reporters Without Borders as the largest prison for journalists…so I am frightened about what they might use against me… We were some of the first people on the ground – if not the first people – to get that story of… militants going in through the Turkish border… I’ve got images of them in World Food Organization (sic) trucks. It was very apparent that they were militants by their beards, by the clothes they wore, and they were going in there with NGO trucks.”

So – say some and among them Press TV – her death, caused by a truck colliding with her car, is suspicious. There are a number of problems with this. The first is that since Turkey is so good at arresting reporters why didn’t they just do that?

Second – if they wanted her dead, why attempt to rub somebody out in this bizarre method? Death by secret-police-organised-road-traffic-accident is far-fetched.

But the investigation does appear to have been superficial. And the curious silence from the US State Department was noted by Serena Shim’s mother on Twitter recently.

But if you were worried about being fingered by the cops in Turkey why would you broadcast statements about the place being a prison for journalists if you wanted the issue to subside?

And what evidence did she actually have for her story anyhow? By this statement it was simply that she saw some dodgy-looking blokes with beards in an aid truck, so they must be IS, mustn’t they? If she had any real proof then this was the chance to report it, but she did not do so.

Her employers – Press TV – say that the truck driver has disappeared and has not been identified. This is odd since his statements, that her car entered his lane oncoming, are widely reported and you will see them below.

The Serena Shim case has been widely taken up by various global axe-grinders. A blog on Global Research (one glance and you will get where they are coming from) actually states: “What is the difference between Serena Shim and James Foley that explains the striking disparity in the media coverage and public outcry?”

Well, one was beheaded in a violent jihadist propaganda video. The other died in a car crash. It is hard to know where to begin with this nonsense.

In a report on the Press TV website a London-based political analyst claimed that “our sister Serena” had been “assassinated by the government of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan”.

Again – not a shred of evidence that this is so, no matter how much Turkey may routinely harass journos.

The Turkish authorities, for their part, say she was killed in Suruc, when a truck collided with her car, which was also carrying her crew, Judy Irish.

Irish’s car was “traveling at a very high speed, went out of control, entered my lane and came under my truck,” according to the truck driver, reported in a leading Turkish paper.

The conspiracists will continue to fantasise about media double-standards. But they are unencumbered with the need for evidence, facts and proof.

The death of James Foley is one thing. The car crash which killed Serena Shim is very obviously very different and the two should not be joined in any way. It is obscene that some choose to do so for their own political ends.

The need for proper investigation of Serena’s death is obvious and pressing and should happen at once.

Conclusions without evidence are wrong, stupid and distasteful to her and all other journalists who risk their lives to do their jobs daily.

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