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Erdogan satirized again in Germany

April 4, 2016

German television has deleted the second lyric about Turkish President Recep Erdogan recited by a German satirist. Ankara protested last week about an earlier text as the EU prepared to deport refugees to Turkey.

Screenshot Jan Böhmermann in ZDF Neo Magazin Royale rezitiert Gedicht über Erdogan
Image: ZDF Neo Magazin Royale

German ZDF public television said Monday it had deleted a poem recited by presenter Jan Böhmermann (pictured above) from last Thursday's edition of "Neo Magazin Royal" still otherwise accessible in its so-called "Mediathek".

The weekly satirical show, produced in Cologne, has run since 2013 on "ZDFneo," ZDF's documentary and talk channel aimed at savvy 25- to 49-year-old viewers.

Böhmermann's poem, containing numerous sexual innuendos, accuses Erdogan of repressing minorities, including Kurds and Christians.

It was broadcasted late Thursday night alongside a new Böhmermann video clip entitled "Germans on the rise!" an ironic critique of populist right-wingers.

'Deliberately abusive text'

On Monday, German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said Chancellor Angela Merkel in a telephone call on Sunday evening with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu had agreed that Böhmermann had recited a "deliberately abusive text."

She had also reiterated the "high value" the German government placed on freedoms of the press and public opinion, Seibert added.

'Limits, at last,' quips Böhmermann

Reacting to the deletion on Monday, Böhmermann quipped: "I think we have spectacularly shown, jointly with ZDF, where the limits of satire lie by us in Germany. At last!"

On Friday, ZDF Program director Norbert Himmler had told the German news agency DPA that the channel had "broad shoulders" editorially, but there were limits to irony and satire.

"In this case, they were clearly exceeded," said Himmler.

"As a result, in consultation with Jan Böhmermann, we have decided to take the passage out of the broadcast. That relates to the video in the Mediathek, clips on YouTube, and re-runs," the program chief said.

In a repeat broadcast on Saturday night, the poem had been removed, but the presenter could still be seen with an Erdogan photo hanging off the studio's back wall. And, the episode still had the title "Böhmerwie (why), Böhmerwo (where), Böhmermann."

That was an allusion to the satirical song that originally drew Erdogan's ire, prompting Ankara last week to call in Germany's ambassador to demand that it be pulled off the air.

The song entitled "Erdowie, Erdowo, Erdogan," broadcast in the "extra 3" program of German NDR public television, had ridiculed Erdogan's alleged extravagance and a crackdown on civil liberties.

The row turned the two-minute clip into a YouTube hit viewed millions of times.

Compromised over EU-Turkey deal?

Merkel's government faced criticism over its delayed public response to that spat, with the EU relying on Turkey under a deal reached last month to limit the flow of migrants to Europe.

FDP Bundesparteitag Christian Lindner
Poem went too far, says LindnerImage: picture-alliance/dpa/B. von Jutrczenka

Among German parliamentarians, opposition liberal Free Democrat leader Christian Lindner told the "Die Welt" newspaper that Erdogan's policies must be sharply criticised.

"That, however, provides no grounds for invective, which is not covered by freedom of opinion and artist expression," said Lindner.

The opposition Left party's spokesman on media matters Harald Petzold said his party would lodge a formal complaint with ZDF against the poem's deletion.

ipj/jil (dpa, epd, Reuters)