The Böhmermann case: Did Merkel make the right decision?

Chancellor Angela Merkel has given the green light for criminal proceedings against German satirist Jan Böhmermann. His "smear poem" about Erdoğan is now the subject of a criminal investigation on charges of insulting a foreign head of state. Is Merkel kowtowing to Ankara?

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Hürriyet Daily News (TR) /

Erdoğan's plan will backfire

Erdoğan has every right to file a complaint against the 'smear poem' but he'll only come out the loser, the liberal daily Hürriyet Daily News predicts:

“The point is that Erdoğan’s total lack of tolerance for such parodies and for caricatures of him is what has ensured that the overwhelming bulk of the European media, not to mention press watchdog groups, are on Böhmermann’s side. ... He is unlikely to win this case against Böhmermann. ... No one in Europe is willing to provide Erdoğan with any advantage that would give him added justification to pursue his authoritarian ways in Turkey. In fact, many believe that this case will backfire and turn from being a case against Böhmermann into becoming a case against Erdoğan, who will have provided a platform in Europe for his critics to rail against him. Put another way, Erdoğan could have managed this case more sensibly, but expecting that from him at this stage is simply not realistic.”

Financial Times (GB) /

Europe losing the world's respect

Europe must not sacrifice fundamental values like press freedom and free speech to curry favour with the governments of emerging powers, the conservative daily Financial Times warns:

“The days when European governments were rich, powerful and proud enough simply to brush off threats from the likes of Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Russia or China are over. Europe’s economic and political power is in relative decline. That makes EU countries potentially much more vulnerable to pressure from foreign leaders to rein in European media - or face the economic and strategic consequences. ... If Europeans bend and compromise fundamental freedoms, they may gain money and a quiet life but they will lose their self-respect, and ultimately the respect of the world.”

Club Z (BG) /

Merkel leading Erdoğan onto thin ice

Merkel's decision was dead right, the news portal Club Z believes:

“Merkel has given a lesson in political leadership. Her speech is a political - and legal - masterpiece. She is leading Erdoğan onto the thin ice of the rule of law - on which he does not cut a good figure. She is counting on the Turkish president slipping up when it comes to the freedom of the media and expression, the separation of powers, the independence of the judiciary - all achievements that as Merkel rightly notes are not sufficiently guaranteed by 'our partner and ally' Turkey. And Böhmermann? Rather than facing a prison sentence he faces a glorious future because of his contribution to the abolition of the silly paragraph 103 of the criminal code already announced by Merkel. Erdoğan is the one who'll come out of this looking ridiculous.”

Berliner Zeitung (DE) /

A lesson on the separation of powers

As far as the daily Berliner Zeitung is concerned Angela Merkel has shown the Turkish president the meaning of separation of powers:

“Not only did she quite rightly point out that the matter lies in the hands of the judiciary but at the same time held out the prospect of the 'lèse majesté' paragraph (§103 of the German Criminal Code) being abolished. Abolishing this paragraph is necessary not just because one fails to see why a foreign head of state should deserve better legal protection than any other citizen, but also because with the application of § 103 of the German Criminal Code there is always the danger of interference with the separation of powers. Because under § 104a the German government can - as has happened now - either authorise the judiciary to prosecute or refuse to. … However, a law that leaves it to the top executive to decide whether or not to act on a violation of the principle of the separation of powers does not belong in the Criminal Code.”

The Sunday Times (GB) /

Europe's leader has lost her bearings

The conservative Sunday Times criticises Angela Merkel's stance saying she is attacking the basic right of freedom of expression:

“Having Mr Erdogan as an ally has consequences, however, as Mrs Merkel has discovered. ... The response in Germany from the media, from politicians in her own ruling coalition and from the public has been hostile and derisive. The German chancellor, who used to be a consensus operator, seems ready to sacrifice freedom of expression for a deal with a foreign leader who does not believe in it. The woman at the head of Europe’s biggest economy - and the de facto leader of Europe - has lost her bearings.”

Yeni Şafak (TR) /

Chancellor bangs her fist for Erdoğan

The Turkish opposition will hardly be delighted at the news that German Chancellor Angela Merkel has authorised the criminal investigation against comedian Jan Böhmermann, the pro-government daily Sabah comments:

“Merkel has banged her fist on the table for Erdoğan. … For the sperm whales of our media this is naturally not good news. After all, they always said we had a dictatorship while Europe lived in the nirvana of democracy. Now look at what the Germans have gone and done. They are refusing to forgive an insult that was directed not against one of their own ministers, their prime minister or president but against the head of state of another country. … Meanwhile we are free to insult even our own president or prime minister! … Merkel has given her permission for criminal proceedings against that clown who insulted Erdoğan - just look at that, the state leadership has given the green light for criminal proceedings. And you [the opposition] don't even like our own judiciary!”