Politics override free speech in Germany

Freedom of speech is an irrevo- cable and nonnegotiable right in America. This is something that is widely accepted and utilized by U.S. citizens, as we know there will be no legal repercussions or consequences to anything that we feel needs to be said, no matter how controversial it may be. If someone told you that you could do extensive jail time for making use of a right that you are born with, what would you do? How would you cope? German satirist Jan Böhmermann is facing this situ- ation right now, and it is unclear to many people why.

In a late-night German televi- sion program airing at the end of March, Böhmermann was shown reading a poem seated in front of a Turkish flag beneath a framed por- trait of Recep Erdogan, the current president of Turkey. This poem was the catalyst of the controversy, as it included a description of Erdogan as “repressing minorities, kicking Kurds and slapping Christians while watching child porn.”

The backlash that followed this exposé may not have been a surprise in Turkey, where Erdogan is a well known enemy of free speech, but it is surprising that it is happening in Germany. The Turkish govern- ment immediately sent a request to Germany imploring the govern- ment to hold Böhmermann legally responsible, even to incarcerate him for up to three years for his condemnation of the Turkish president.

This controversy has not only triggered massive debates on the topic of free speech in Germany, but has also brought up the topic of whether or not Europe has become too diplomatically dependent on the Erdogan, who is a huge proponent of media censorship.

After Turkey’s request, Böhmermann came under investi- gation by the German state prosecutor on April 6, specifically for his alleged violation of a deeply buried caveat of Germany’s criminal code, which makes it illegal to insult foreign state representatives. In an effort to pacify the Turkish government and deter them from pressing legal charges, German Chancellor Angela Merkel made a formal state- ment claiming Böhmermann’s poem as a “deliberately offensive text” that

the entire problem.

Some have characterized the idea of

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