Posted on April 7, 2016

Germany Investigating Comic Suspected of Offending Turkish President Erdogan

Ruth Bender, WSJ, April 6, 2016

German prosecutors have opened an investigation against a television comedian on suspicion of offending Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, escalating a dispute over press freedom that comes as Germany relies increasingly on Turkey to solve Europe’s migrant crisis.

The prosecutor’s office in the city of Mainz is launching proceedings on suspicion that prominent German comedy host Jan Böhmermann breached a law that prohibits offending foreign heads of state or members of government, senior public prosecutor Andrea Keller said.

Under paragraph 103 of the German criminal code, offending a foreign head of state can be punishable by up to three years in prison.

The legal probe comes two days after German Chancellor Angela Merkel criticized Mr. Böhmermann’s satirical poem, which made crude sexual jokes about Mr. Erdogan. {snip}

Ms. Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said the chancellor and Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu agreed in a phone call on Sunday evening that the text of the poem that aired on public broadcaster ZDF last Friday was “deliberately offensive,” voicing a rare official media criticism in a country that strongly advocates freedom of the press.


The investigation was ironically foreseen in Mr. Böhmermann’s satirical treatment of Mr. Erdogan. As he presented the piece, the comedy host said even Germany had limits on what kind of ridicule was allowed and that German courts could block defamatory criticism.

He then read out a poem filled with crude sexual references to Mr. Erdogan to demonstrate this and broadcaster ZDF removed the clip from its website shortly after it went online, stating that the comedy host had “clearly crossed” the boundaries of irony and satire.

After the video was removed, Mr. Böhmermann said on Facebook that he and ZDF had  “impressively shown where the boundaries of satire lie in Germany. Finally!”