Two thirds of Germans oppose Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision to allow a satirist to be prosecuted for allegedly insulting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, poll shows
According to survey by pollster Emnid for the Bild am Sonntag newspaper released on Sunday, 66 percent of respondents showed opposition to Merkel’s decision to allow prosecutors to pursue the case.
The poll, which was conducted on Friday, questioned 500 people about Merkel’s authorization for a request by Turkey
for the prosecution of German TV comedian Jan Boehmermann over a satirical poem about the Turkish president
Only 22 percent said the Chancellor was right, with 12 percent undecided.
Boehmermann read out a sexually crude poem about Erdogan on public German television channel ZDF two weeks ago.
Ankara demanded last week to have Boehmermann prosecuted for insulting the Turkish president as a foreign head of state.
Merkel had called the anti-Erdogan poem “deliberately insulting” during a telephone call with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. A preliminary investigation was also launched by German prosecutors over the so-called defamatory poem.
The ZDF apologized over the piece of satire, saying the show “had crossed the line into slander.” A rerun of the program was pulled from air.
German prosecutors have opened a preliminary probe against the comedian over his so-called Defamatory Poem.
Picture taken on January 13, 2016 shows German TV comedian Jan Boehmermann during an award ceremony in Dusseldorf, western Germany. (by AFP)
The German chancellor, however, has said Berlin intends to scrap by 2018 the rarely enforced Section 103 of the criminal code, which criminalizes insulting a head of state, organs or representatives of foreign states. The charges can carry a sentence of up to three years in prison.
The developments come as Merkel is accused of compromising on freedom of expression in order to ensure Turkey’s continued co-operation to tackle the refugee crisis.
Some Germans worry that Merkel is compromising on freedom of expression in order to ensure Turkey’s continued cooperation to stem the influx of refugees into the European Union. Merkel is scheduled to visit southern Turkey next week.
Merkel has also come under criticism by her ruling coalition as some ministers have opposed the decision to prosecute the comedian. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has reiterated that freedom of speech and freedom of arts are essential rights that need to be protected.
The chancellor center-left Social Democrat (SPD) coalition partners, who had wanted the Turkish request to be rejected, urged her to champion freedom of opinion and of the media during her upcoming trip to Turkey.
“Without these basic liberties, democracy is not conceivable – the Turkish government must recognize that too,” SPD Secretary General Katarina Barley told the Bild am Sonntag.
People demonstrate in support of the German TV comedian Jan Boehmermann front of the Turkish Embassy in Berlin on April 15, 2016. (AFP photo)
The decision has appalled international rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch (HRW), which called on German authorities to defend freedom of speech.
Many rights groups from across the globe have been calling on Western countries to press Turkey on the issue of human rights.
There have been reports of many people prosecuted in Turkey for insulting top authorities.
Activists say Erdogan has filed hundreds of court cases against critics, including many journalists, for insulting him since he took office in August 2014.