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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9 reader comments

  1. Judy Poe says:

    My daughters car was on a 3 lane” one ” way highway as I am sure you saw in various photos all the discrepancies .. Some photos provide by Turkey show all the vehicles going the same way with the exception of the truck GOING OPPOSITE OF ALL OTHER VEHICLES.. A layman can see this and the damage to the car is not indicative of a head on collision. . The last televised report my daughter did is just that the last televised report NOT her last report. Does iy matter the method that is used to kill innocent journalist ? Do you know my daughter was killed in a car crash as being reported ? I don’t know that is how my daughter lost her life. You are implying she did not have the evidence which she stated in her report. . You directly questioning my daughters integrity and professionalism. You might accept being spoonfeed Turkeys account of what transpired by her family will not .

  2. fuad says:

    I hear you, but media double … triple standards are a big issue for me. Like how c4news totally blanked out the may massacre in dhaka last year.

  3. Paul J says:

    “The first is that since Turkey is so good at arresting reporters why didn’t they just do that? ”
    Maybe because they wanted her dead rather than face the embarrassment of arresting her for no reason?

    “if they wanted her dead, why attempt to rub somebody out in this bizarre method? ”
    Is a car accident really all that “bizarre”? Isn’t that quite a clean and easy way to murder someone, hit their traveling car with a big lorry? The Turkish intelligence agencies have quite a record for killing people after all, and plenty of resources to pull it off.

    “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? ”
    Perhaps she thought that by openly expressing her fears she might gain a measure of protection, rather than keeping them to herself?

    “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. ”
    Then surely Chanel 4 news will have no problem in tracking him down and interviewing him yourselves. I look forward to your report.

    “The conspiracists will continue to fantasise about media double-standards.”
    The “conspiracists” will recall how the Turkish foreign minister and the head of Turkey’s secret police were recorded discussing a false flag attack from Syria in order to intervene there. And how little media attention that attracted. Anyone paying the slightest attention to events in Syria over the last few years is totally and completely aware of how biased the western MSM has been, even cheerleaders of thew FSA will openly acknowledge it.

    This is a poor and shoddy piece of writing.

  4. gerry says:

    alex-what has happened to your integrity?
    you sound more and more like a government trumpet
    you have been got at it appears to me

  5. Aminah says:

    Is this entire story a joke. Serena Shim is a very brave journalist. She had very credible threats to her life days before the accident which must be investigated. Do you work for Erdogan?

    1. Judy Poe says:

      That questions as crossed many peoples mind .

  6. Dr. Richard Marsden says:

    This is a mean-spirited and foolish post by Alex Thomson. There was no firm evidence, just his fear inspired assumptions, when he thought his life was in peril in ‘Set up to be shot in no man’s land?’ (Friday 08 Jun 2012) The title has a question mark after it, and yet Thomson tells readers ‘I’m quite clear the rebels deliberately set us up to be shot by the Syrian Army. Dead journos are bad for Damascus.’

    In that part of the world, at this time, having gone on television to tell the world she had evidence of IS combatants being shipped across the border in World Food Organization vehicles, one would have to be pretty naive not to take seriously the possibility that Serena had been assassinated. At a stroke it would prevent any follow up revelations from her, ‘disappear’ the concrete evidence if she had it with her and intimidate into silence any one thinking of continuing where she left off. Anyone with questions over the mechanics of the accident should check out developments in the remote control of ordinary vehicles.

    And anyway, eye witness testimony is evidence in a court of law. Serena reported what she saw and what she knew. That’s evidence of something. It’s a start. The implications of what she saw and what she knew where evident in her facial expressions and voice. I know fear when I see it and Serena was afraid during that interview. She managed to find a way of overcoming that fear to tell us what she had learned. That, I think, is just one reason so many people find her courageous.

    The call is for Justice for Serena, for an investigation into the death of this American journalist. It may, of course, have been an accident, but we all have an interest in knowing what really happened to this journalist, mother, wife and daughter. It’s right to call for an investigation from the US, but I think this is unlikely to happen.

    So here’s a thought and a suggestion: having lectured us with his Oxford trained intellect on ‘why conclusions without evidence are stupid’, I call on Alex Thomson and his Channel 4 team to leg it over to Turkey to investigate the cause of Serena’s death and the injury to her camera woman Judy Irish, and to pursue her investigation regarding the transport of IS militants in NGO vehicles, particularly those of the World Food Organization.

    Either that or those who have followed him and Channel 4 for many years will be entitled to draw our own conclusions.

  7. Dr. Richard Marsden says:

    As a postscript to my earlier comment, for anyone interested in investigating the connections between the Turkish secret service and the Islamic State beheading videos of Sotloff, Foley, Haines, and Henning, I offer this as a starting point: http://businessofemotions.org/2014/10/20/the-secret-of-islamic-states-beheading-videos-revealed/ How might that amazing coincidence be explained?

    The Turkish secret service may have much more to protect than at first meets the eye.

  8. Ludovic Noble says:

    There is a mistake in this article, the author claims she did not have evidence but she claims to have photographed the militants boarding NGO trucks like the World Food Organisation.

    I agree with the author: we should be cautious before jumping to conclusions. However, the tone of this article suggests that the author has jumped to the conclusion that there was no conspiracy. Play your own game mate! Also there are far better researched conspiracy websites than global research, http://www.isgp.nl is a great example.

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