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  • Tragic Death Of Talented Romanian Journalist Sparks Discrimination Dispute On Mental Illness

    April 23, 2023
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    Iulia Marin via Facebook

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    Iulia Marin tragically lost her life shortly before her 33rd birthday. She started working as a  journalist at the age of 22 and worked for some of the most well-known newsrooms in Romania, such as Adevărul, Gândul, Recorder, and Libertatea. During her 11 years in the media, she stood out through her excellent skills in unmasking political corruption, her spirit of observation, and her unique writing style. Iulia was the one who discovered the identity of the “woman in the blue dress” who had been beaten by the miners during the riots in 1990.

    However, everything came to an end on April 18th when Iulia Marin was found lifeless in her apartment. Her body was transferred to the National Institute of Forensic Medicine. Two days later, the Romanian media announced her death was most likely a suicide caused by a voluntary overdose.

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    Iulia has never kept her mental struggle a secret. She was open about her battle with depression, often writing about it on her Facebook page and blog. In her last Facebook post on April 10th, Iulia wrote:

    “Sometimes I count on my fingers the ‘good’ days. Those days when I feel good, I’m productive, I’m okay. […] I sit here and think how bizarre it feels when my whole life depends on a few milligrams of a substance I’ve barely even heard of. And when I say ‘my whole life’ that’s not an overstatement. […] I’m at a point when I hate even the word ‘depression’. I often deny it, lie to myself, listen to music, or do anything to get out of this state of mind. But it rarely does anything.”

    Iulia continued to work just like millions of other people who struggle with mental or physical illnesses

    On April 19th, Victor Ciutacu’s talk show on Romania TV focused entirely on destroying the memory of Iulia and another journalist, for the simple fact they suffered from depression.

    Victor Ciutacu via Facebook

    “Those people are mentally disturbed, and I don’t want to say more than this, and they were working in the media. The pen of Iulia Marin is a weapon, and when used, it can destroy lives,” said the host. For what felt like forever, the host and his guests mercilessly attacked various people with mental illnesses, their employers, and their colleagues.

    “This girl was working on investigations after she had three suicide attempts in the past. […] Don’t you think about it as an employer? Okay, you don’t have to limit her right to work, but what if that girl is not mentally fit to handle serious investigations? I don’t know, maybe what happened is proof that she was not psychologically fit.  How sure can you be that, aside from her writing and the documents presented, the investigation is not the result of a stray mind? […] I put myself in the employer’s position. What do I do with a talented person? Do I fire her and leave her without an income?”

    The next day, the attacks continued during the same talk show, not only toward Iulia Marin but also toward her former employers. Here are some of the remarks made by several guests:

    “They cynically promote the work of a girl with serious mental issues.”

    “They’re trying to squeeze tears from their readers, continuing to present their former employee as some sort of odd talent.”

    “All those who didn’t talk to her before Easter are accusing us of being out of line for daring to ask if it’s normal for a mentally ill person  with behavior issues to work in the media.”

    “We will continue to ask if she was psychologically tested and declared fit to work in an environment with an emotional charge and public impact.”

    “In a normal world, after the tragedy in our country, not one person in the management of the large Swiss media outlet from Romania and Bulgaria should have anything to do with this job. Psychiatric checks should become mandatory for those working in the media, not only upon leaving a mental hospital but right before employment.”

    “I would never allow a mentally ill person to work for me,” said journalist Razvan Savaliuc.

    The media is firing back with thousands of signatures of support from journalists, NGOs, and doctors

    Iulia Marin via Facebook

    Libertatea, Iulia Marin’s last employer, launched a call for support against Romania TV, for inciting hate and discrimination against people suffering from mental illnesses.

    “We, those who signed this call, refuse to believe Romania can silently witness the normalization of discrimination against people with psychological and emotional struggles. It is not normal, or humane to instigate against these people, regardless of their illness, and to cast doubt on their ability to earn a living.”

    So far thousands of Romanian journalists and newsrooms joined the cause but it didn’t stop there. Among the supporters, there are The College of Doctors from Romania, The Romanian Association of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, The National Federation of Family Physicians, university professors, publishing houses, specialists in various fields, as well as simple citizens eager to see justice being served.

    Adevărul, one of Iulia’s former employers, put out a public statement defending her work and supporting other people struggling with mental illnesses.

    “We reaffirm our trust in Iulia Marin’s work. During the three years she spent in this newsroom we never had any doubts about the ethics, rigor, and fairness of our colleague, who always did her job with diligence, dedication, and good faith. She was never accused of breaking the rules of this difficult profession in any way. On the contrary, Iulia was always an example to follow here. [...] We have the responsibility to defend her against those who attack her. We are direct witnesses of her honest work and refuse to silently witness her being bullied.”

    “We show our support and solidarity toward all who, just like Iulia, struggle with a mental illness. We admire and respect all those who, just like Iulia, find the will to work and keep their dignity. We encourage all those who need help to ask for it, without fear of being stigmatized. We strongly condemn every form of discrimination against you.”

    Adevărul also wants to express solidarity with our colleagues from Libertatea, the newsroom where Iulia Marin worked for the past three years, which was also attacked in the context of Iulia’s tragic death. We thank them for all the support we know they gave her.”

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    Author

    Diana Livesay

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