President Erdogan speaks at the Presidential Palace in Ankara on May 4, 2016. Photo via Turkish Presidential Press Office/EPA
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is taking legal action against a German media mogul for defending the comedian who recited a satirical and sexually crude poem about him on television.Ralf Hoecker, a lawyer representing Erdogan, filed a request on Monday for a preliminary injunction against Mathias Doepfner, the chairman and CEO of German media company Axel Springer, in an attempt to stop a "wave of insults" against the Turkish leader, local media reported.
A district court in Cologne rejected the request on Tuesday afternoon on the basis of "the defendant's right to free expression of opinion" — but Hoecker said he had expected that, and would recommend Erdogan appeal to a higher court.Hoecker said yesterday that he had successfully sought a similar measure against German director Uwe Boll, who produced a video featuring an expletive-filled rant about Erdogan.Doepfner penned an open letter in April supporting the German comedian and television host Jan Boehmermann, who wrote a deliberately offensive verse which caused a diplomatic spat between Ankara and Berlin.
On the March 31 edition of Boehmermann's late-night show "Neo Magazin Royale" on public broadcaster ZDF, the comedian recited a poem about Erdogan that included references to the president enjoying sex with sheep and goats and accused him of "kicking Kurds and slapping Christians while watching child porn."Turkey responded furiously, demanding Germany take action against Boehmermann. Chancellor Angela Merkel at first told Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu that the poem was "deliberately offensive," in an apparent attempt to defuse the situation, but later agreed to open a criminal investigation against the comedian for insulting a foreign head of state.Doepfner's open letter, which was published in Axel Springer newspaper Welt am Sonntag, said Boehmermann's poem made him "laugh out loud" and said he "wholly supported" the comedian.
The injunction request is the latest attempt by the apparently thin-skinned Erdogan to muzzle criticism abroad. Boehmermann's poem was itself a response to Turkish complaints about a satirical song called "Erdowie, Erdowo, Erdogan" broadcast on NDR television late last month that depicted Erdogan as an egotistical, hypersensitive authoritarian bent on suppressing anything that offended him. Turkey called in Germany's envoy to provide an explanation and demanded the video be deleted.
However Berlin rejected the protests and attempts to suppress the musical number backfired spectacularly. Its authors added English and Turkish subtitles and the YouTube video, which had been little viewed before, has now been watched more than 8.5 million times.Boehmermann said the NDR broadcast fell under the right to artistic freedom, press freedom and freedom of opinion but that his poem probably would not, describing it as an example of impermissible "abusive criticism." ZDF went on to pull the video from the internet, prompting the television host to tweet that they had shown the "limits of satire" in Germany.Freedom of speech has been deteriorating drastically in Turkey in recent years. Dozens of journalists have been jailed alongside dissident activists and bloggers. In March, the government took control of the main opposition newspaper and an independent news agency.During his time as prime minister, Erdogan brought a raft of defamation cases against writers and intellectuals for criticizing him and his policies. Since he assumed the presidency in 2013 he's also been enthusiastically prosecuting members of the Turkish public who have used their social media accounts to lambast him.Follow VICE News on Twitter: @vicenews