FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Death of a Reporter

My twitter feed has become a memorial for the death of journalists from Iraq to Turkey. The latest tragedy was the death of Serena Shim, a US citizen who is of Lebanese origin and worked for Press TV. Last year I had met Serena in Beirut. It is commonplace for journalists to meet each other, to learn where one has been and whether there are stories out there that help give wider context and confirmation for stories that one follows. It was in that context that I met Serena, who had been covering the conflict in Ukraine, Iraq and of course Lebanon. She was a warm person, very smart and very well informed. Her bravery impressed me. Others of her ilk and of her age bracket include the fabulous Radwan Mortada (al-Akhbar) and Jenan Moussa (al-Ain). These are reporters who go into dangerous situations with no “security advisors” – I worry for them daily.

Ten days ago, Serena’s employer Press TV sent her to Turkey to cover the story of the Kobane conflict and to look into the allegations of Turkish help to the Islamic State. This is a story that takes one to Urfa, a city that is linked to Syria through the border crossing at Akçakale. At Urfa’s Balıklıgöl State Hospital, evidence for the treatment of Islamic State fighters is not camouflaged – it is there in plain sight. The Islamic State wounded from the battle of Kobane cross over for treatment here. Any journalist who covered this aspect of the war knows that Turkish intelligence (Milli İstihbarat Teşkilatı) has been mighty skittish about the story. They are quick to show up, and quick to make gestures of ill will.

On Friday, October 17, Serena went on air for Press TV. She was rattled in the broadcast. Serena said that Turkish intelligence officials had accused her of spying. She had reported that Islamic State fighters had been smuggled over the border in trucks with logos from the World Food Organization. No one had seen this before or made such allegations. It came to the heart of the suspicion of various forms of assistance being provided to the Islamic State through Turkey. Barzan Iso, a Syrian Kurdish journalist, had already reported that Qatari charities have been using the Jarabulus crossing to get aid to the Islamic State. I had also reported on this but did not have any evidence that trucks with logos from international organizations were being used for this purpose.

serena shim

From the Turkish towns of Mardin, Kilis and Urfa, the foreign jihadis made an easy transit into Syria. Until recently, Turkish authorities did not try to hide this “rat line.” Oğuzeli Airport in Gaziantep (Turkey) had come to resemble the old airport in Peshawar (Pakistan), as the bearded wonders disembarked with a glint in their eyes to join what they saw as a holy war. Pakistani intelligence had the same steel in their walk as Turkish intelligence – the parallels seemed to me more and more appropriate when a Kurdish commander told me that the Islamic State is to Turkey as the Taliban is to Pakistan.

In her last broadcast via Skype, Serena told Press TV that she had footage of the IS militants making across the border in broad daylight. The pressure from Turkish intelligence worried her. Reporters Without Borders had called Turkey the “largest prison for journalists.” Because of that she said, “I’m a little bit frightened.” She felt that the pressure had come for her forthright reports from Turkey about the war in Syria.

Two days later, on Sunday, Serena was traveling in a rental car from the border to the town of Suruç, when her car collided with a “heavy vehicle,” likely a cement mixer. The driver and truck vanished. Serena was killed. Her cameraman was injured and is now at Suruç State Hospital.

Turkish authorities say that the driver of the cement mixer has been arrested. An investigation is ongoing.

Serena’s name joins a long list of journalists killed in the war in Iraq-Syria – the Islamic State murdered Mohanad al-Akidi and Raad Mohamed al-Azzawi this month. This was in Iraq.

The Kobane fight has raised tensions in Turkey. It has threatened the “Imrali Process,” a peace negotiation between the Turkish government and the Kurdish Worker’s Party (PKK). Protests inside Turkey for action to defend Kobane resulted in the death of at least thirty people. Pressure has also come on the pro-Kurdish media. On October 2, demonstrators in the town of Diyarbakir attacked four reporters for the pro-Kurdish press – Bisar Durgut and Nihat Kutlu of the daily Azadiya Welat and Beritan Canözer and Sarya Gözüglu of JINHA. Bisar Durgut had eight stab wounds. On 14 October, in Turkey’s Adana, Kadri Bagdu was shot dead by two men on a motorcycle as he distributed the Kurdish daily papers Azadiya Welat and Ozgur Gundem.

Serena Shim, who leaves behind a family that includes her two young children, found herself chasing the truth in a highly charged situation. Evidence that Turkey is assisting the Islamic State is awkward for Ankara. It is as awkward as the evidence of collusion between al-Qaeda and the Pakistani Navy uncovered by my friend and Asia Times colleague Saleem Shahzad (1970-2011). He was killed for his fearless journalism. It is my feeling that Serena met Saleem’s fate.

Vijay Prashad is the author of No Free Left: The Futures of Indian Communism (forthcoming from LeftWord Books, New Delhi). He is a contributor to Killing Trayvons: an Anthology of American Violence.

CounterPunch is Moral Oxygen in a Corrupt Empire. Support the Fund Drive Today!
pp1

More articles by:

Vijay Prashad’s most recent book is No Free Left: The Futures of Indian Communism (New Delhi: LeftWord Books, 2015).

December 18, 2018
Charles Pierson
Where No Corn Has Grown Before: Better Living Through Climate Change?
Evaggelos Vallianatos
The Waters of American Democracy
Patrick Cockburn
Will Anger in Washington Over the Murder of Khashoggi End the War in Yemen?
George Ochenski
Trump is on the Ropes, But the Pillage of Natural Resources Continues
Farzana Versey
Tribals, Missionaries and Hindutva
Robert Hunziker
Is COP24 One More Big Bust?
David Macaray
The Truth About Nursing Homes
Nino Pagliccia
Have the Russian Military Aircrafts in Venezuela Breached the Door to “America’s Backyard”?
Paul Edwards
Make America Grate Again
David Rosnick
The Impact of OPEC on Climate Change
Binoy Kampmark
The Kosovo Blunder: Moving Towards a Standing Army
Andrew Stewart
Shine a Light for Immigration Rights in Providence
December 17, 2018
Susan Abulhawa
Marc Lamont Hill’s Detractors are the True Anti-Semites
Jake Palmer
Viktor Orban, Trump and the Populist Battle Over Public Space
Martha Rosenberg
Big Pharma Fights Proposal to Keep It From Looting Medicare
David Rosen
December 17th: International Day to End Violence against Sex Workers
Binoy Kampmark
The Case that Dare Not Speak Its Name: the Conviction of Cardinal Pell
Dave Lindorff
Making Trump and Other Climate Criminals Pay
Bill Martin
Seeing Yellow
Julian Vigo
The World Google Controls and Surveillance Capitalism
ANIS SHIVANI
What is Neoliberalism?
James Haught
Evangelicals Vote, “Nones” Falter
Vacy Vlanza
The Australian Prime Minister’s Rapture for Jerusalem
Martin Billheimer
Late Year’s Hits for the Hanging Sock
Weekend Edition
December 14, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
A Tale of Two Cities
Peter Linebaugh
The Significance of The Common Wind
Bruce E. Levine
The Ketamine Chorus: NYT Trumpets New Anti-Suicide Drug
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Fathers and Sons, Bushes and Bin Ladens
Kathy Deacon
Coffee, Social Stratification and the Retail Sector in a Small Maritime Village
Nick Pemberton
Praise For America’s Second Leading Intellectual
Robert Hunziker
The Yellow Vest Insurgency – What’s Next?
Patrick Cockburn
The Yemeni Dead: Six Times Higher Than Previously Reported
Nick Alexandrov
George H. W. Bush: Another Eulogy
Brian Cloughley
Principles and Morality Versus Cash and Profit? No Contest
Michael F. Duggan
Climate Change and the Limits of Reason
Victor Grossman
Sighs of Relief in Germany
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Robert Fantina
What Does Beto Have Against the Palestinians?
Richard Falk – Daniel Falcone
Sartre, Said, Chomsky and the Meaning of the Public Intellectual
Andrew Glikson
Crimes Against the Earth
Robert Fisk
The Parasitic Relationship Between Power and the American Media
Stephen Cooper
When Will Journalism Grapple With the Ethics of Interviewing Mentally Ill Arrestees?
Jill Richardson
A War on Science, Morals and Law
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Evaggelos Vallianatos
It’s Not Easy Being Greek
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail