Turkey Protests Germany Over Video Satirizing Erdogan

Officials in Ankara summon German ambassador demanding removal of video from the Internet, but Germany denies request citing respect for freedom of expression and the press.

Geir Moulson and Frank Jordans
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Video from German broadcaster NDR satirizing Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.Credit: YouTube
Geir Moulson and Frank Jordans

AP - The German ambassador to Turkey has been summoned to the foreign ministry over a German television broadcast of a song that pokes fun at Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a Turkish official said Tuesday.

Turkey condemned the satirical video to Ambassador Martin Erdmann during a meeting last week and demanded that the public broadcaster that aired it on March 17 cease showing it, according to a ministry official who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with government rules.

The German-language song, which can still be seen on broadcaster ARD's website and on social media, alludes to the imprisonment of opposition journalists, authorities' heavy-handed response to protesters and allegations that Turkey prefers to take action against Kurdish rebels rather than the Islamic State group. It features a clip of Erdogan falling off a horse.
Its lyrics include the line: "A journalist who writes something that doesn't suit Erdogan will be in the slammer tomorrow."

Germany's Foreign Ministry confirmed in a statement that its ambassador in Ankara discussed the issue with Turkish diplomats Tuesday and "a few days ago."

"He made clear in these conversations that the rule of law, independence of the judiciary and protection of fundamental freedoms, including freedom of the press and freedom expression, are valuable goods that must be protected together," the ministry said.

The broadcaster made a similar point about freedom of expression. "That the Turkish government apparently has taken diplomatic action ... is not compatible with our understanding of freedom of the press and opinion," Andreas Cichowicz, the chief editor of NDR television, the ARD regional broadcaster that produced the song, told German news agency DPA.

He said NDR hasn't yet received any complaint.

The German Federation of Journalists' chairman, Frank Ueberall, said that Erdogan "apparently has lost his grip."

Ueberal added in a statement that the president's indignation is "laughable" but said people shouldn't overlook the fact that "the persecution of critical journalists is bitter reality in Turkey."

More than 1,800 cases have been opened against people accused of insulting Erdogan since he came to office in 2014, under a previously seldom-used law against insulting the president. Those who have gone on trial include celebrities, journalists and even schoolchildren.

The Turkish official said a number of foreign envoys are being summoned to the ministry for a formal protest about a group of diplomats who last week attended the trial of two opposition journalists.

Erdogan severely criticized the diplomats — including one who posted selfies from the courthouse— accusing them of violating their boundaries and siding with those he said wanted to carry out a "coup" against the government.

Turkey is concerned over "postings on social media that amount to intervention in the independence of the courts and are contrary to the principle of impartiality," the ministry official said.

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