Turkish police briefly detain journalist who covered man’s suicide

A journalist who covered the story of a 45-year-old father’s suicide in Kocaeli due to his inability to buy a pair of trousers for his son’s school uniform was briefly taken into police custody on Monday, the T24 news website reported.

The reason for Ergün Demir’s detention is unknown; however, the story had sparked critical reactions on social media and eventually created a public discussion about the lack of support by authorities for people in financial need.

Yet, some pro-government figures, most recently Ali Yalçın, chairman of education union Eğitim-Bir-Sen, found the publicizing of İsmail Devrim’s suicide a “deliberate” act to create political pressure on the government.

Meanwhile, the wife of İsmail Devrim filed a criminal complaint against journalist Demir, who covered the story of the suicide, accusing him of recording her without consent and distorting the facts, the Diken news website reported on Tuesday.

Hafize Devrim told the prosecutor that her husband had been injured in a motorbike accident and was afraid of failure if he returned to work, which might have caused psychological problems and led to his suicide.

She also rejected the journalist’s claim about the father’s inability to buy a pair of slacks, saying they recently bought an apartment and that other than paying the mortgage they had no significant financial problems.

Demir was briefly detained by local police on Monday over Hafize Devrim’s complaint and later released pending trial. After the detention, Demir published a recording of the interview with Devrim, arguing that she had consented and that the recording told the story. “I am not mad at that woman,” he said and added, “I can feel her pain.”

The story of the Devrim family made the headlines in Turkish papers and sparked a blowback on social media since the country’s fragile economic outlook has started to create poverty-related tragedies.

On Sunday a group of 15 people that gathered in Kocaeli to protest the Education Ministry responding to the suicide incident, claiming that “free education is a human right,” were also detained by police.

Devrim, committed suicide last week after his son was refused entry to class because he was not wearing the school uniform slacks. According to reports, Devrim told his wife that there was no point in living off he was unable to buy a piece of clothing for his high school son.

The provincial education directorate announced that the family did not apply to the school administration for financial aid “probably as a matter of honor.”

The governor’s office, meanwhile, connected the incident to the “psychological problems” of the deceased father.

Turkey is ranked 157th among 180 countries in the 2018 World Press Freedom Index released by Reporters Without Borders (RSF). If Turkey falls two more places, it will make it to the list of countries on the blacklist, which have the poorest record in press freedom.

Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by SCF show that 236 journalists and media workers were in jail as of September 20, 2018, most in pretrial detention. Of those in prison 168 were under arrest pending trial while only 68 journalists have been convicted and are serving their time. Detention warrants are outstanding for 147 journalists who are living in exile or remain at large in Turkey.

Detaining tens of thousands of people over alleged links to the Gülen movement, the government also closed down some 200 media outlets, including Kurdish news agencies and newspapers, after a coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, 2016. (SCF with turkishminute.com)

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