German Chancellor Angela Merkel may be known for being stone cold, but a warm gesture to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has some of her citizens accusing her of refusing to stand up for freedom of speech.
Merkel has decided that German courts will hear a case brought forward by Tayyip which alleges that a comic broke the law when he mocked Erdogan on national television, Inquisitr previously reported. Jan Boehmermann, the TV presenter in question, read a poem on satirical show Neo Magazin Royale, which made extremely obscene jokes about the president. Express published lines from the poem, which can be read here.
The law in question is archaic, and it’s unlikely that Tayyip will get anywhere with his case. Still, some are saying that the act is telling of Merkel’s current position in the European Union. The Huffington Post ran a critical editorial where they accused her of being steamrolled by Erdogan.
Of course, this is far from Tayyip’s recent violation of freedom of speech. Erdogan recently called for journalists and other people critical of his government to be labeled as terrorists. That came on the heels of several other confrontations with journalists to cause international outcry. Last month, Sevgi Akarcesme, the editor-in-chief of Turkey’s highest-circulating daily, Today’s Zaman, penned a New York Times editorial begging the international community to take action against Tayyip’s increasingly repressive actions against journalists in the country. She wrote the letter after her newspaper’s headquarters were appointed a board of trustees to oversee content following a police raid.
“This pressure is not a recent thing. In December 2014, state authorities detained Zaman‘s editor in chief at the time, Ekrem Dumanli, as part of a systematic crackdown on government critics. My predecessor as editor in chief of Today’s Zaman, Bulent Kenes, was imprisoned last October for critical Twitter comments. I myself received a suspended jail sentence late last year for somebody else’s response to one of my tweets… [we] are accused of disseminating ‘terrorist propaganda’ and aiding terrorist organizations. This has become a convenient catchall accusation for clamping down on government critics.”
Erdogan’s battle against journalists may have begun as early as 2013, when he first led a campaign against sympathizers of exiled Hizmet preacher Fethullah Gulen. That push ended in the seizure of Zaman for printing Gulen’s sermons. By May 2014, Erdogan had first begun to demonize social media like Facebook and Twitter. After a string of other violations, charges of “aiding an armed terrorist organization and publishing material that threatened state security” were levied against reporters Can Dundar and Erdem Gul, senior editors of Cumhuriyet.
After spending months in jail, the pair of journalists were cleared of terrorism charges by Turkey’s Supreme Court, much to the annoyance of Erdogan. They were arrested in the first place over a report that showed the state was sending a seized package of weapons to Syria. In her NYT editorial, Akarcesme noted that the release was aided by the public support of Vice President Joe Biden, who had spoken out about the jailed journalists while visiting Istanbul in January, reported The Guardian.
“[Journalists in Turkey are being] intimidated or imprisoned for critical reporting in Turkey… that’s not the kind of example that needs to be set.”
There are currently at least 14 journalists in Turkish jails under President Tayyip Erdogan, some of them on terrorism charges, and perhaps many more in the future.
[Image via Guido Bergmann/Bundesregierung/Getty Images]