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.

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Comments on “German Court Insults Free Speech, Bans Comedian From Mocking Turkish President”

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44 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Already done:

http://justiz.hamburg.de/contentblob/6103298/6b1b7ae264e23809630af9d7716ef2fd/data/schmaehgedicht-jan-boehmermann-pdfanhang.pdf

The legal parts (well, legal according to the Hamburg court, which is kinda notorius):
– “dumb as a bag” (“Sod-dumb” seems to be what most translators agreed on)
– craven
– prude
– beating girls while wearing rubber masks
– Repressing minorities
– kicking Kurds
– hitting Christians

Illegal among others is the line “that is Recep Erdogan, the Turkish president”. Which I agree is extremely insulting to the poor people of Turkey.

Bergman (profile) says:

Well in honor of the differences between the US and Germany...

Sod-dumb, cowardly and hesitant/ Is Erdogan the President/ His boner smells like Döner/ Even a pig’s fart smells finer/ He’s the man who punches girls/ while wearing a bloody rubber mask/ Things he loves the most/ is shagging goats/ and oppressing minorities This kind of criticism would be illegal! Kicking Kurds, beating up Christians/ while watching child porn/ And in the evening instead of a nap/ Fellatio with a hundred sheep/ Erdogan is all things considered/ a President with a tiny wang/ I repeat this is an example of what would be illegal!

Anonymous Coward says:

“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.”

So, he’s still allowed to insult him, but only a little?
This is both an affront to free speech AND not much of a victory for Erdogen.

With this 3/4 of a silencing, does Erdogen now consider his diginity 3/4 restored? Is he only 1/4 of a thin-skinned prick now?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Ir is kind of ridiculous to ban part of a work. Also, by only providing a snippet the court is using the same trick as media producers have used to sell products for years: Provide a taste to present something and people will be curious about the whole.

As for Erdogan it is all kinds of a pyrrhic win when it comes to the publication of the poem. I hope the judge is laughing at the irony of the judgement too!

Arthur Moore (profile) says:

Re: But it is the LAW!

Germany doesn’t have the 1st Amendment, but they are part of the EU, which has some free speech protections.

It is the primary duty of every US judge to determine if a law is in compliance with the constitution. This was deliberately set up as a check and balance to prevent a simple majority from becoming tyrannical.

From things like this it certainly looks like German judges don’t have that ability.

DB (profile) says:

The situation is a little more complex.

The chancellor has to agree to the prosecution. Which almost never happens. But right now Germany really needs Turkish help with the refugee crisis.

This is basically the court (and the government) saying “yes, we have to prosecute you because of politics. Here is the lightest possible wrist slap, and some free publicity for your trouble.”

Anonymous Coward says:

Is this the poem?

If so, it might describe Erdogan!

Sod-dumb, cowardly and hesitant/ Is Erdogan the President/ His boner smells like Döner/ Even a pig’s fart smells finer/ He’s the man who punches girls/ while wearing a bloody rubber mask/ Things he loves the most/ is shagging goats/ and oppressing minorities This kind of criticism would be illegal! Kicking Kurds, beating up Christians/ while watching child porn/ And in the evening instead of a nap/ Fellatio with a hundred sheep/ Erdogan is all things considered/ a President with a tiny wang/ I repeat this is an example of what would be illegal!

Avatar28 (profile) says:

Re: The actual poem

A couple of people have said this is (or may be) it:

Sod-dumb, cowardly and hesitant/ Is Erdogan the President/ His boner smells like Döner/ Even a pig’s fart smells finer/ He’s the man who punches girls/ while wearing a bloody rubber mask/ Things he loves the most/ is shagging goats/ and oppressing minorities This kind of criticism would be illegal! Kicking Kurds, beating up Christians/ while watching child porn/ And in the evening instead of a nap/ Fellatio with a hundred sheep/ Erdogan is all things considered/ a President with a tiny wang/ I repeat this is an example of what would be illegal!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: The actual poem

Dear M. Chermside, there you go. Signed, internet:
Jan Böhmermann – Schmähgedicht / Schmähkritik – Original – HD
http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x452lof

German original. The actual satire starts at about 2:40 with “that is something you can’t do in Germany”. If it gets deleted search for the name without the “-“, “/” and “HD”.

Dave Cortright says:

Inanity like this just makes me want to hack the system

And by hack, I mean try out a bunch of different techniques to see what is allowed and what isn’t. First up, the asserting negative statements about topics that still ultimately brings up the topic and associates it with the person in question. For example:

Tayyip Erdogan is most definitely not a weak-minded, emotional tyrant who cannot effectively manage his own, pathetic life let alone an entire nation. And he isn’t one of those twisted sexual deviants who gets off on suck sweaty goat balls.

Or how about the “don’t shoot the messenger” technique?

I overheard other people saying Tayyip Erdogan is a immature, cantankerous, poopy face who has no tolerance for criticism. I don’t necessarily agree with them, but to each his own I suppose

censorship is damage to the system. route around it.

Jeff Green says:

It isn't always quite that simple ...

Personally I’m all in favour of free speech, BUT, it isn’t always that simple. I haven’t read the judgement in detail (my German’s not that good) but have seen a few summaries. What the court appears to have said is that makind fun of Erdogan being an egomaniac suppressor of criticism and the free press, but it isn’t OK to make totally unsubstantiated allegations of extreme sexual deviancy.
This is not a judgement I would make but I can see it as not totally unreasonable. As Americans you idolise free speech. That is your right but many others around the World think of Americans as totally weird and stupidly childish for parts of your law and constitution. The glory of this World is that we are all different and there is no right answer, merely millions of differently wrong ones.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: It isn't always quite that simple ...

That is your right but many others around the World think of Americans as totally weird and stupidly childish for parts of your law and constitution

This is exactly why we formed our own country all those years ago. And then dominated long established countries.

Andreas (profile) says:

It is not a shameful ruling for Germany. It is a shameful law for Germany. The judge has to judge based on the laws that exist, and this law is totally outdated. Germany takes pride and having a very good balance of powers and it is good that no one is above the law.

But yeah, German law has so many paragraphs, some dating back 120 years afaik. So the legislation needs to speed up in updating from 19th -> 21st century.

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