intercept - Chancellor Angela Merkel alienated a broad swathe of the German public by approving a request from Turkey to prosecute Jan Böhmermann, a comedian who insulted Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan by reading an obscene poem about him on late-night television.
In the same statement, however, Merkel said that her government would move to repeal the law Böhmermann appears to have violated, an obscure provision of the German penal code that makes it a crime to insult foreign heads of state. If approved, the change would not take effect until 2018.
In the meantime, Böhmermann now faces possible prosecution both for breaking that law — an artifact of the ancient prohibition on hurting the feelings of monarchs, known as lèse-majesté — and for ordinary defamation, because Erdogan has also filed a separate complaint with a state prosecutor.
Böhmermann’s poem — which describes Erdogan as a foul monster who has sex with goats and “watches child porn while kicking Kurds” — was presented to viewers as part of a sketch about the difference between the sort of satirical insults of the notoriously prickly Erdogan that are permitted under German law and legally prohibited slander.
That the segment was perhaps intended to demonstrate the difference between satire and defamation to Erdogan himself was suggested by the show’s decision to add Turkish subtitles to the broadcast. That said, it was perhaps an error to subtitle just the poem itself, not the discussion of media law around it, so that Turks who do not speak German were only exposed to the stream of vile insults.