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Turkey's Erdogan rejects western 'lessons in democracy'

April 5, 2016

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said he rejects US and EU criticism over clampdowns on press freedoms. Erdogan has called on western leaders to "contemplate their own shame" before criticizing Turkey.

Türkei Präsident Tayyip Erdogan Rede
Image: Getty Images/AFP/A.Altan

Erdogan's addressed the Turkish Red Crescent in Ankara on Monday in which he angrily rejected western allies' criticism of his authoritarian tendencies.

US President Barack Obama warned last week after Erdogan's Washington visit that Turkey's apparent intolerance of critical media was taking it "down a path that would be very troubling."

But the Turkish leader was having none of it.

Screenshot Jan Böhmermannin ZDF Neo Magazin Royale rezitiert Gedicht über Erdogan
The German government says it agrees that comedian Jan Böhmermann had crossed the line by reading a 'deliberately offensive' poem about the Turkish president on ZDF televisionImage: ZDF Neo Magazin Royale

"Those who attempt to give us lessons in democracy and human rights must first contemplate their own shame," Erdogan said Monday.

His remarks follow Ankara's anger at a satirical German music video mocking the Turkish president and a poem aired twice on Germany's state ZDF written by German comedian Jan Böhmermann.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman said the poem was insulting and "deliberately offensive," government spokesman Steffen Seibert said Monday.

Seibert added that Germany considered the poem to be defamatory, which is not permitted in Germany, but would not comment on whether a formal apology was conveyed to Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu who spoke to Merkel by phone over the weekend.

Merkel not laughing at German satire

Turkey's government has been accused of muzzling critical voices and targeting opposition lawmakers, critical academics, independent lawyers and NGOs.

In the weekend phone call, Davutoglu's office said the prime minister told Merkel that he was unhappy about recent articles criticizing Erdogan in German media.

Davutoglu complained such stories "were incompatible with freedom of the press" and said there should be an end to the publication of such "unacceptable" material, his office said.

Der Spiegel's scathing Erdogan coverage

German weekly Der Spiegel ran a cover story deeply critical of Erdogan with a caricature of the Turkish president - whom the magazine called "the wild man of the Bosphorus" - shaking his fist.

Merkel's relationship with Turkey has been increasingly complex. The chancellor has tried to distance herself from Erdogan's polarizing rhetoric.

At the same time Germany's relationship with Ankara was instrumental in crafting a controversial deal in which Turkey has begun accepting refugees back from Greece in exchange for 6 billion euros ($6.8 billion) and a resumption of talks over Turkey's ascension into the EU.

jar/bw (AFP, dpa)