SHARE
COPY LINK

TURKEY

German comic in Erdogan satire row suspends TV show

A German comedian whose satirical poem about Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has unleashed a bitter row about freedom of speech has decided to suspend his own TV show, he announced on his Facebook page on Saturday.

German comic in Erdogan satire row suspends TV show
Böhmermann said in his online comments that he felt a "great solidarity" from the German people. Photo: DPA

Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday authorised criminal proceedings sought by Turkey against the popular comic Jan Böhmermann who could be convicted under the rarely-enforced section 103 of the criminal code — insulting organs or representatives of foreign states.

Merkel's decision has appalled rights bodies such as Human Rights Watch which on Saturday called on the German authorities to defend freedom of speech “even if the contents of the speech are offensive to some”.

In light of the swirling controversy Böhmermann said he was taking a “televisual” pause “to allow the public to concentrate again on really important matters such as the refugee crisis, videos of cats or the love life of (German actress and model) Sophia Thomalla”.

German prosecutors have opened a preliminary probe against Böhmermann over his so-called “Defamatory Poem”, recited with a broad grin on public television, accusing Erdogan of bestiality and watching child porn.

During the broadcast on March 31, Böhmermann gleefully admitted the piece flouted Germany's legal limits to free speech and was intended as a provocation.

Merkel is said to have called the poem “deliberately insulting” during a telephone call with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davotoglu. 

Böhmermann said in his online comments that he felt a “great solidarity” from the German people.

“But it also puts me in a difficult situation,” he added, with the xenophobic far-right taking his side “who can I still make jokes about?”

The incident has soured German-Turkish relations at a time when Ankara is vital to the European Union's plans to tackle its current refugee crisis.

The EU and Ankara in March agreed a deal to ensure so-called economic migrants who travel to the Greek islands on boats operated by people smugglers are quickly sent back to Turkey, which has agreed to take them in return for billions in EU cash.

Some media commentators have suggested that given the geopolitical situation Merkel has no wish to upset Turkey.

The TV comic has meanwhile received vocal support from numerous media and cultural figures.

“The authorities should not afford heads of state greater privilege against provocative speech,” Human Rights Watch said.

TRAVEL

Germany lifts travel warning for four Turkish regions

Germany lifted its travel warning for several coastal regions of Turkey on Tuesday, ceding partially to weeks of campaigning by Ankara, whose tourism industry relies heavily on German visitors.

Germany lifts travel warning for four Turkish regions
Beach chairs and umbrellas at a hotel complex in Antalya, Turkey. Photo: DPA

The warning will be lifted with immediate effect for the four coastal provinces of Antalya, Izmir, Aydin and Mugla, government spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer said in Berlin.

“Turkey has developed a special tourism and hygiene concept for these four regions in order to realise safe tourism under the conditions of the pandemic,” Demmer said.

Turkey will require anyone travelling back to Germany to present a negative coronavirus test within 48 hours before departure.

Turkey had been one of 160 countries outside the European Union and the Schengen area for which a travel warning was in place until August 31st.

In July, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu had demanded a review of the travel warning while visiting his German counterpart Heiko Maas in Berlin.

READ ALSO: Can you be forced to take a coronavirus test after returning to Germany from a risk country?

Anyone currently arriving in Germany from areas considered to be at high risk must produce a negative coronavirus test or go into quarantine for 14 days.

Germany, which is home to a large Turkish community, makes up the biggest group of tourists by nationality in Turkey.

In a blow to tourism in Spain, Germany last week added three northern Spanish regions to its list of high-risk destinations.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about Germany's plans for mandatory Covid-19 tests for returning travellers

SHOW COMMENTS