Fresh controversy in satire row with Ankara

First the German ambassador was summoned to the Turkish Foreign Ministry because of a satirical video aired by German state broadcaster NDR, now a "smear poem" by German satirist Jan Böhmermann has provoked Ankara's ire. Turkey's President Erdoğan has filed a criminal complaint against Böhmermann. How can the dispute be settled?

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Kathimerini (GR) /

Berlin discovering humour's limits

Jan Böhmermann expected too much of the German government, the conservative daily Kathimerini comments:

“What the German comedian probably failed to take into account was that his meta-humour wouldn't receive the full backing of the German government. Unlike Erdoğan, Merkel is said to have a sense of humour. But bilateral relations often take precedence over protecting free speech. Böhmermann has been put under police protection. The controversial video has been removed from the state television archives. And the German judiciary, which must now unravel the Gordian Knot, will call the shots. … Germany is gradually discovering that humour can only go so far. Particularly when it involves Berlin's partner, who is brandishing his super-weapon, namely the refugee deal, from his golden throne.”

Handelsblatt (DE) /

Böhmermann has fuelled hatred

Böhmermann must take responsibility for his actions, the liberal business paper Handelsblatt urges in response to the criminal complaint filed by the Turkish president against the German comedian:

“Jan Böhmermann hasn't called anyone's bluff; all he's done is to deliberately provoke an artificial controversy that has now taken on a dynamic of its own. ... The sad thing about clowns like Böhmermann is that they fuel the disenchantment with politics that they otherwise so love to condemn. For Böhmermann's fan base - which is mainly on the Internet - the big enemies are once again the idiotic German government, the rotten system, and also the stupid state television which has in the meantime erased the controversial video from its media library. The only winner is ironic Böhmermann, the champion of 'meta levels' of understanding. What he's really doing with all this, however, is simply fuelling hatred. He's not the victim but the perpetrator. If satire really should have the freedom to do anything it wants, why not admit responsibility for the damage that has been caused, Mr Böhmermann?”

Hürriyet (TR) /

Don't attach too much importance to silly satire

Columnist Mehmet Y. Yılmaz rips into Böhmermann's poem but warns against overreactions:

“Never have we witnessed such base political satire. … As a member of the audience I felt my intelligence was being insulted. … And this dumb programme has rightly provoked even fiercer reactions in Turkey. … But Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmuş went too far when he said a serious crime against community had been committed. I would like to point to the contradiction when a government that is the closest friend of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity, describes a silly satire programme as a 'crime against humanity'. If Mr Kurtulmuş wants his words to be taken seriously, he should choose them more carefully.”

Magyar Hírlap (HU) /

Merkel's hypocrisy on press freedom

After the attack on Charlie Hebdo last year German Chancellor Angela Merkel was defending press freedom. But by chastising Böhmermann she has shown just how little she respects her own position, columnist Zsolt Bayer writes in the conservative daily Magyar Hírlap:

“Angela Merkel put on a Pharisaical face after the attack on Charlie Hebdo. Back then she maintained that the freedom of the press and opinion were key European values and that Charlie Hebdo had the right to offend the most holy sentiments of Muslims and Christians because that was what made Europe what it is. ... Press freedom stands above the sensitivities of believers. For Merkel, this lying, base hypocrite, this idea fits in with her political interests at the time. Today, however, she is pursuing different political goals: namely sucking up to Erdoğan.”

Berliner Zeitung (DE) /

Merkel sacrificing press freedom out of pragmatism

With her criticism of Jan Böhmermann Merkel is kowtowing to the Turkish government, the centre-left daily Berliner Zeitung criticises:

“The chancellor has sacrificed values that until recently she claimed were sacrosanct for a simple pragmatic reason: the Turks are her key to solving the refugee crisis. … That's not on! The only appropriate approach here is to get the Turks, with their ambitions to join the EU, used to the idea that in Germany and in Europe press freedom and freedom of expression are upheld. On this fundamental issue the chancellor must avoid conveying the impression that those principles are in any way negotiable. Against this backdrop we must see the Böhmermann affair as follows: his 'mocking criticism' was a bet on the future. Will the media, courts and politicians behave as I predicted they would? If he wins that bet we will all have lost.”

Der Standard (AT) /

Böhmermann deliberately provokes German authorities

The fact that Böhmermann's criticism deals with an "intentionally damaging text", as Chancellor Merkel says, is only half the truth. The poem that borders on the obscene is just a means to an end, the centre-left daily Der Tagesspiegel believes:

“Böhmermann is deliberately provoking the German authorities and in particular Chancellor Merkel. Because while the commentators are almost exclusively up in arms about the strong choice of words, hardly anyone payed proper attention to how the poem was introduced: Bömermann isn't at all concerned with Erdoğan. He is only interested in showing the limits of the freedom of expression. With his co-moderator Ralf Kabelka he discussed the question of how far satire can go. Abusive criticism aimed solely at disparaging people is forbidden, everyone agrees on that. Böhmermann recited the poem as a clear example of mocking criticism, but refused the audience's applause. Such a text, he intimated, should never be recited in Germany: that is forbidden.”

Delo (SI) /

EU's ruthless realpolitik vis-à-vis Erdoğan

Commenting on the scandal over NDR's satirical video about Turkish President Erdoğan, the centre-left daily Delo complains about double standards:

“For years Turkey worked to introduce democratic reforms and to defuse the tensions with the Kurdish PKK, but the EU never took it seriously. Yet now that the country is sliding into an authoritarian system under Erdoğan and human rights and democratic freedoms are being ignored, Turkey has suddenly become a partner with whom the EU is even willing to open a new chapter in the membership negotiations. Crazy? Dirty? Lacking in principles? All true! But diplomacy has a nicer word for it: 'realpolitik'. This is, however, never about democracy and freedom for the people but purely about interests.”

Diken (TR) /

Turks don't understand the German media

The anger of Turkey's President Erdoğan and certain sections of the Turkish population over the satire is based on a lack of understanding of the German media, the anti-government Internet portal Diken writes:

“In Germany journalists aren't afraid of politicians or prosecutors. ... The public broadcasters in Germany have absolutely nothing in common with their Turkish equivalent TRT. In Germany public television is seen as an organ that caters to the interests of the entire population, and as such it can't behave like government mouthpiece. ... Week after week the cabaret numbers, sketches and humorous programmes that you see in Germany poke fun at all members of the government - particularly Merkel. So the Erdoğan song is not a direct reflection of government policy. Nevertheless you can be sure that its message voices the opinion of the members of government.”

Kurier (AT) /

Erdoğan scores own goal

With his fierce reaction to the satire the Turkish president has scored an own goal, writes the liberal daily Kurier:

“Because of a satirical video clip aired on German television that mocked his autocratic governing style he summoned the German ambassador to the Foreign Ministry (a relatively harsh diplomatic gesture) and demanded that the video be deleted. This triggered a wave of creative lampoons on the Internet - and at the same time proved how accurate the satirical video was. Erdoğan will have to learn that you can't simply switch off criticism and jokes in free countries. And Europe must ask itself what kind of man it is tasking with executing some of its policies.”

Spiegel Online (DE) /

Merkel must defend press freedom

The German government must talk turkey with Turkey, the online magazine Spiegel Online demands:

“Chancellor Angela Merkel and other EU politicians must manage the balancing act between maintaining Turkey as a partner on the one hand and not betraying their universal, non-negotiable values on the other. ... What's more, the German government should make its voice heard loud and clear. Now is not the time to be silent. Germany should use the case at hand as an opportunity to stress the importance of freedom of the press and freedom of opinion. And it must demand that Turkey also respect these values. Otherwise it will leave itself open to the accusation that it is letting things go merely to suit Erdoğan's sensitivities and not compromise the refugee deal.”

More opinions

Le Quotidien (LU) / 31 March 2016
  Erdoğan made satirical video go viral (in French)