German Court Insults Free Speech, Bans Comedian From Mocking Turkish President
from the oh-come-on dept
The weird saga of the insanely thin-skinned Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan continues. As you’ll recall, he’s on a legal crusade against a German comedian who recited a purposely ridiculous insulting poem about Erdogan on TV (as a response to the stories about Erdogan’s thin skin). Erdogan’s lawyers found a little used (and little known) “lese majeste” law on the German legal books that makes it a crime to insult representatives of foreign nations. The comedian, Jan Bohmermann, admits that the poem in question was over the top, but that was the point. When you hear about a foreign leader spending so much effort on trying to sue anyone who insulted him, no matter how slight, it’s actually pretty tempting to add to the pile of insults.
For ridiculous geopolitical reasons, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has allowed the case to move forward, and now a Hamburg court has told Bohmermann that he has to stop repeating at least some of the poem so as not to offend the sensitive ears of Erdogan:
In Tuesday’s ruling the court found that “Erdogan does not have to put up with the expression of certain passages in view of their outrageous content attacking (his) honour.”
Why not? While it may sound flip, it’s a serious question. He’s the leader of a country of almost 80 million people. Shouldn’t we be at least a little concerned that he apparently turns into a cowering puddle of emotions the second people make fun of him? Most people put up with other people insulting them just fine, and we aren’t leaders of a major nation state. Why is a German court so willing to toss out any basic free speech rights around satire just to please a foreign leader who can’t take a joke?
The court didn’t ban the entire poem, but even just picking what can and can’t be said seems like a ridiculous thing for a court to be involved with at all:
The court ruled that only six lines of the 24-line poem by German comedian Jan Boehmermann could be recited, offering the Turkish leader a partial legal victory.
What a shameful ruling for Germany.