Currents, News

Misinterpreting the facts and fueling the conspiracies

3 min read

After Kiraz was pronounced dead, conspiracy theories ran rampant on social media. Some claimed that the terrorists were not responsible for shooting Kiraz but rather he was caught in the crossfire during the rescue operation.

This week we witnessed a horrible terror attack in Istanbul at the very heart of the judiciary. I extend my most sincere condolences to the loved ones of the late prosecutor Mehmet Selim Kiraz. Although I am very saddened by the attack, I cannot sit idly by when the coverage following the attack has been quite a disappointment. Daily Sabah’s chief ombudsman, İbrahim Altay, wrote about the how to cover terror attacks both last week and this week. However, I will focus on a more specific problem and let you draw your conclusions. What we have here is a social media, enamoured by its own ability to jumping conclusions. After Kiraz was pronounced dead, conspiracy theories ran rampant on social media. Some claimed that the terrorists were not responsible for shooting Kiraz but rather he was caught in the crossfire during the rescue operation. The first allegation that supports these claims came from the website of Zaman newspaper although many news outlets featured it as the story gained traction. They released a medical report and claimed there were 10 bullet wounds rather than the previously disclosed five. Famous for similar outbursts, CHP MP Hüseyin Aygün even shared some sort of sketch, painting it to be the proof. Conspiracy theorists also claimed that the report was proof of their accusations. Yet, let’s take a look at the so called evidence. In the the report, the only thing suggesting that it was an official report was the letterhead of the hospital the Kiraz was taken to after the operation, something I can imitate even in my home with a simple printer. There were no signatures, no seals and no stamps regarding who wrote the report. Let’s say for the arguments sake the report is genuine as I have no ways to prove it was either. But proving this report as official one will not exonerate the following mistakes I will mention in the following of the article.

Then the misinterpretation of what is said in the report becomes our problem. Indeed, the report said there were 10 bullet holes in total but didn’t specify all of them as entry wounds; it simply wrote “entry/exit.” In the news article of Zaman, they even misquoted the report they published by saying all 10 were entry wounds. Two mistakes can be seen here. First, they provide faulty commentary that resulted in misleading the public. Second, they did not consult an expert on what the report actually means but rather manipulated what was written at will. Since I am no expert in writing an autopsy report, I cannot interpret what the report actually meant by “entry/exit” and simply quote it as is.

The last problem actually renders the aforementioned points redundant in the eyes of the law. By disclosing a confidential report – if it was genuine – that is part of an active investigation, these journalists violated the secrecy of investigation. However, providing false information to the public, fueling speculation that the attack was a conspiracy and misquoting the facts in order to mislead the public is a more grave offense. Also İstanbul’s Chief Prosecutor of Republic, Hadi Salihoğlu refuted the allegations of irresponsible police action and the 10 bullet wounds, and said that there were five entry wounds in Kiraz’s body.

Recourse: Daily Sabah, April 6, 2015

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