Böhmermann vs. Erdoğan: What are the limits of satire?

Article published on April 13, 2016
Article published on April 13, 2016

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?

Böhmermann has fuelled hatred - Handelsblatt, Germany

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?" (13/04/2016)

Don't attach too much importance to silly satireHürriyet, Turkey

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." (13/04/2016)

Merkel's hypocrisy on press freedom - Magyar Hírlap, Hungary

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." (13/04/2016)

Böhmermann deliberately provokes authorities - Der Standard, Austria

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." (08/04/2016)

---

30 Countries, 300 Media Outlets, 1 Press Review. The euro|topics press review presents the issues affecting Europe and reflects the continent's diverse opinions, ideas and moods.