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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  • icon
    Jeremy Lyman (profile), 18 May 2016 @ 10:45am

    I kinda hope he asks the court to identify the passages to which it objects so they have to respond by entering them into the record.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Bergman (profile), 18 May 2016 @ 10:55am

    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!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 May 2016 @ 10:56am

    "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?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 18 May 2016 @ 1:17pm

      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!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 18 May 2016 @ 11:15pm

      Re:

      He will probably try and have the court charged with failing to uphold his dignity.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 May 2016 @ 11:02am

    Sunshine

    Can we just POST the damn thing and be done with it? Maybe fund a kickstarter to buy airtime on Turkish TV where we can broadcast the text?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    lars626 (profile), 18 May 2016 @ 11:03am

    But it is the LAW!

    The real problem is not the court.
    The real problem is the existence of that law.
    The judge is constrained to follow the law, no matter how stupid it is.

    The solution is to change the law.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Arthur Moore (profile), 18 May 2016 @ 12:50pm

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 May 2016 @ 11:04am

    You'd think that the Germans of all people would have an appreciation for the fact that some world leaders REALLY need to be taken down a peg or six million...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    DB (profile), 18 May 2016 @ 11:15am

    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."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous, 18 May 2016 @ 11:30am

    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!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 May 2016 @ 11:48am

    Errr...

    Isn't this the guy running oil for ISIS?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Michael Chermside, 18 May 2016 @ 11:54am

    The actual poem

    I am disappointed that no one (yet) provided a link to the text (or video) of the actual poem in question. Dear internet: can you come through for me?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Avatar28 (profile), 18 May 2016 @ 11:57am

      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!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 May 2016 @ 2:23am

      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".

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Dave Cortright (profile), 18 May 2016 @ 12:07pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Oblate (profile), 18 May 2016 @ 12:20pm

    Well, if THAT peom is banned...

    Time for a new poem! I'm sure it won't be difficult, with such an inspiring subject.

    And if the court bans this new poem (partially or otherwise), there's always songs, skits, plays, various types of spoken word performances, etc...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 18 May 2016 @ 12:28pm

      Re: Well, if THAT peom is banned...

      With the ultimate punchline for them all being that no joke, insult or 'slander' could possibly be more damaging to his image and reputation than his own actions.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 18 May 2016 @ 12:26pm

    Objection!

    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."

    You can't harm something that doesn't exist, and as such it's impossible for any poem, words or action to attack or harm Erdogan's 'honor'.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Jeff Green (profile), 18 May 2016 @ 12:50pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Ed (profile), 19 May 2016 @ 6:31am

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

      You've spouted the biggest load of bullshit I've read in weeks. And that's after reading transcripts of Trump speeches. If you cannot understand the concept of "free speech", please sod off, or go join Erdogan with the sheep.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 May 2016 @ 7:26am

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 20 May 2016 @ 1:12am

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

      The glory of this World is that we are all different and there is no right answer, merely millions of differently wrong ones.

      And that's why we have free speech, moron.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Regret, 18 May 2016 @ 1:27pm

    Limerick contest!

    I think that this situation absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody's part... why not a limerick contest? There once was a prick named Erdogan....

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    You know who else didn't like being insulted?, 18 May 2016 @ 2:56pm

    Hitler, that's who!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Jeffrey Nonken (profile), 18 May 2016 @ 7:16pm

    See, here's my problem...

    I don't like promoting negative stereotypes, I really don't.

    And yet, this story is BEGGING for me to make a remark about Germans having no sense of humor.

    *sigh*

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    techflaws (profile), 18 May 2016 @ 10:20pm

    What a shameful ruling for Germany.

    Well, this was ruled by the Hamburg court who's built a reputation for truly outlandish and outright nutty rulings over the years. So this was to be expected.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Moo, 19 May 2016 @ 2:05am

    Competition

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 May 2016 @ 4:06am

    So presumably six lines in the poem were considered factually accurate - I'd like to know which lines they were.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    me@me.net, 19 May 2016 @ 7:45am

    screw the German Court

    and screw the stench blossom running Turkey.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 May 2016 @ 9:00am

    For purists, here's the original original bit from the "Neo Magazin Royal" TV show (sorry, no english subs). Anyone born before the 1990's should recognize the soundtrack...

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4oWXp5xj0PA

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Andreas (profile), 19 May 2016 @ 9:23am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 May 2016 @ 2:01pm

    since he cant say anything i will.

    #### Tayyip Erdogan #### the german court system and #### angela merkel.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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