The Böhmermann case: a note from your editor

Dear readers,

Most importantly of all, I would like to thank you all for your great support over the last two weeks. All those working for IMI – myself included – devote a lot if not most of their free time to cover interesting events and write meaningful content for you to enjoy. It is our readership that makes this all worthwhile, and I know I speak not only for myself if I say that I am pleasantly surprised and deeply honoured that this many people are already reading our work.

On the 5th of April, the semi-official launch date of iminternational.nl, your views exceeded 500 without any form of marketing. We are very happy to have you as our viewership. Thank you.

We have three more articles coming up in the next week or so. Please like and share them as always; it helps us out massively. Most of our staff is also working on a long-term project. I cannot give you any real hints as of now, but I am sure it will be a shocking revelation!

Now for the reason why I am writing you directly. I do not normally believe it is the job of an editor to mingle in politics. However, when the values and principles which allow us to do our work, and you to engage in free discussions on the internet and elsewhere, are threatened, I have no choice but to speak up.

You probably are familiar with the Böhmermann case. Jan Böhmermann, a well-known German television satirist caused a diplomatic crisis when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan claimed Böhmermann’s recent work offended him deeply. It is illegal in Germany to offend foreign heads of state, and after great pressure from Turkey, Chancellor Merkel allowed an inquiry into the poem and a video titled Erdowie, Erdowo, Erdogan.

Mrs Merkel has said she wants to revise the law, but as of now it still stands, meaning that Jan Böhmermann may possibly be convicted.

Here’s a little taste of what Böhmermann wrote about President Erdogan. The poem itself, unfortunately, has been taken offline.

I am not saying you should find the video sharp, ironic or even slightly amusing. It is, however, clear that free speech is under threat in Germany and in many other countries in Europe. Regardless of what you think of the video, do we really want the government to decide what we are (not) allowed to say? Or, in this case, have a foreign head of state, who is known for curbing free speech in his own country, to prevent German citizens from speaking their mind? Personally, I expect a thicker skin from world leaders.

Is this music video insulting? I think so, yes. But it is also a political opinion that should be protected by our governments. Sometimes an opinion can be insulting to others. Böhmermann and myself find Erdogan’s actions repulsive and deeply insulting. Does he not have the right to retaliate in his capacity as a TV satirist?

Feel free to disagree. I am looking forward to a lively Facebook discussion. However, if you want to voice your opinion and possibly help Böhmermann, who has been placed under police protection, please feel free to sign this petition.

Your grateful editor-in-chief

IM International

—-This article was amended on 23/04/16 to change a misspelling of “Böhmermann” —

 

One thought on “The Böhmermann case: a note from your editor

  1. Personally I believe that the Böhmermann case has, if anything, shown us that the governments European Union (see the European Parliament debate of April 15) firmly stand behind their people’s right to freedom of speech.

    The music video is not the material for which Böhmermann is being accused of slander. When Erdogan first complained about this video, the German ambassador to Germany defended the video in the name of freedom of speech.

    At stake here is a remarkably different speech act. Böhmermann, in what he called an act to show Erdogan the difference between satire (legal) and slander (illegal), read out a slander poem on live television. Böhmermann himself, the television station and most of the public agree that the poem is not ok. It is slander. It is a an act of freedom of expression that has been restricted due to its infringement on the other person’s human dignity. We must not forget that human rights come with restrictions that protect others’ human rights.

    Personally, I could not laugh at Böhmermann’s poem, it was gross and unfounded. But I understand what he was trying to do (I think). By showing what is definitely NOT okay, he has inadvertently shown those who cry slander at the slightest public criticism that that’s pretty harmless by comparison. Perhaps sometimes we all need these refreshments. And seeing how harmoniously the European Parliament discussed the Böhmermann case, despite the ongoing dispute on almost every other agenda item, perhaps we needed one of those refreshments now.

    As to Merkel’s decision to allow the charge under Paragraph 102. I support her in this decision. As of now, the paragraph stands. There is nothing that she can do about this. As for whether or not Böhmermann’s poem infringes upon Paragraph 102, that is a judicial decision not a political one. Merkel blocking this charge would have inadvertently been an action contradictory to the separation of powers, another value which we hold very dearly in our free and egalitarian democracies.

    To end with a brief opinion on what is to happen with Böhmermann. I believe, in order for Germany, and the West in general, to have an image of regimes which sincerely believe and stick to the principles of justice, Böhmermann must be found guilty. At least of the civil charge of slander. Such a judgement would, at most, result in a pecuniary charge and a promise by Böhmermann that he will not read the poem again. The pecuniary charge aside, this punishment is negligible. If Böhmermann truly only wanted to mark the difference between satire and slander, then this has been done. It need not be repeated. There need not be any fear that such a judgment would restrict freedom of expression, or even satire. Neither of the two are at stake here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *