Global Independent Analytics

Erdogan’s Attempt to Suppress German Satire Has the Opposite Effect

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey is the subject of a German-made satirical video deriding his treatment of journalists, the opposition and his country’s Kurdish minority

Melissa Eddy for The New York Times reports: If President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey had hoped that summoning the German ambassador would get a video poking fun at him by a German satire program removed from the Internet, he was wrong. Instead, the move had any number of consequences, including provoking a diplomatic dust-up with Germany and a fresh round of ridicule of Mr. Erdogan for playing to type.

The video recorder by the comedy show “extra3” depicted Turkish President as a hypersensitive dictator who would restrain any opponent or journalist he does not like. Not only Erdogan failed to stop the propagation, but also, his actions spurred great interest which resulted in more than three million views of the video.

 

However, Erdogan was not the only one dissatisfied by the whole thing: German commentators noted that EU risks a lot by concluding an agreement with the leader with such anti-democratic approach. German Chancellor Angela Merkel was also mocked in the video for cozying up to someone who was criticized extendedly for ignoring the democratic ideals of the EU.

Eddy continues: Christiane Wirtz, a spokeswoman for Ms. Merkel, confirmed that the German ambassador to Ankara, Martin Erdmann, had been summoned on March 22 over the video, and again on Tuesday for attending the opening of a trial on Friday of two opposition journalists charged with espionage.

The trial was abruptly closed to the public, and Mr. Erdogan criticized the German and other foreign diplomats in the courtroom.”

Sawsan Chebli, a spokeswoman for Germany’s Foreign Ministry, said that “the ambassador made clear the position of the German government that the rule of law, the independence of the judiciary and protection of basic rights, which include freedom of the press and freedom of expression, are values that must be protected.”

The show hosts in their turn reacted to the dispute with a political cartoon picturing a figure wielding a fire extinguisher while threatening “Either you erase this video, or I will extinguish the Internet.”

“He’s living in grand style; Big boss from Bosporus,” begins the clip. The video comprises actual footage of the Turkish leader and recent events in the country, including the use of water cannons on demonstrators after the closing of the opposition newspaper Zaman.

“When a journalist writes a piece that Erdogan doesn’t like, he quickly ends up in jail,” the song continues, showing images of opposition journalists being taken away by the police and protesters clashing with officers in riot gear.

“Newspaper offices closed down, he doesn’t think twice,” the lyrics add. “With tear gas and water cannons he is riding through the night.”

It is not the first time when Turkey and Germany argue over the freedom of press and expression. Erdogan used to crack down on the media over the recent years; it is a crime under Turkish law to insult a president. Moreover, lately, he passed a law to put the foreign press under the same restriction. More than 1.800 cases have already been filed by local media workers, and a German correspondent was forced to leave the country after being denied journalist accreditation.

Eddy provides a quote: “The Turkish leader’s attempt to silence German satire “is an indication of a clear misunderstanding of Western press freedoms,” wrote Klaus-Dieter Frankenberger in the Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper.

“Apparently the president is under the impression that the German Foreign Ministry can censor German media outlets,” Mr. Frankenberger wrote. “Experienced Turkish diplomats know this is of course untrue, yet Turkey is not like it was under the ‘old’ Erdogan. It has become a more authoritarian country. Erdogan now reacts hysterically to any criticism. This is a woeful state of affairs.”

Andreas Lange, the editor of “extra3”, says that it was a surprise for the group to find out such an impact their video caused; he added that neither German nor Turkish government attempted to contact them over the controversy. 

“We don’t do this just to be funny. We do it because these are things that we believe need to be addressed,” Mr. Lange said. “Our motto is, if we shoot and someone yells ‘ouch!’ then we have hit the mark.”

 

By Stefan Paraber for GIA.

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