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Image: picture-alliance/dpa/B. Knabe

Satire and the Turkish media

Helena Baers / dc
April 13, 2016

Satirist Jan Böhmermann’s obscene poem about the Turkish president is dominating headlines both in Germany and Turkey. We sum up the response from Turkish media.


The affair surrounding Böhmermann's satirical poem about Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is not just a German story. It's also headline news in Turkey, where both Böhmermann and Erdogan are being criticized by commentators.

Solidarity with Böhmermann

It's not just media sources loyal to the government that have harsh words for the poem and its creator. A commentator in the conservative "Hürriyet" newspaper wrote: "I watched the show on ZDF and I must say that I have never seen such base satire. I did not laugh nor smile; in fact, I felt disgusted."

However, the Turkish government has not scored any points with its reaction to the satire. Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus went as far as to call it a 'crime against humanity.' "I don't want to get into a discussion here about what constitutes a crime against humanity. But I would advise Mr. Kurtulmus to choose his words more carefully if he wants to be taken seriously," the Hürriyet commentator wrote.

"Diken," a news website that is critical of the government, says there's been a change of heart among the German people, brought on by Erdogan's reaction to the poem.

"Now that Erdogan has upped the pressure, Böhmermann is getting more support from the German public. Cabaret artists, actors, journalists and politicians are showing solidarity with Böhmermann, " the website said.

Turkish newspapers
'Simply disgusting' and 'cloddish satire' were just two criticisms in the Turkish mediaImage: picture-alliance/dpa/I. Kjer

Poem is 'just repulsive'

Turkish media outlets more closely affiliated with the government have a different focus. The "Star" newspaper wrote in one of its editorials that the poem is "just repulsive." It added: "What was supposed to be a satire was simply the pornographic fantasies of someone who looks down at people who aren't German as second-class citizens. The man is using the Turkish president to live out his sick fantasies." The paper also addressed the accusations in Germany that Turkey is a country with limited press freedom.

"Foreign diplomats are allowed to take selfies in court with the accused. But during the NSU trial, no Turkish journalists have been admitted - and yet the trial is about eight Turks who were murdered," the paper wrote.

An editorial in the "Sabah" newspaper was titled "Erdogan for beginners": "The German media are making the same mistake that the Turkish opposition has been making for years. They hope to force Erdogan to resign by increasing public sentiment against him. But this method has never worked. Erdogan has always profited from such tensions. Now, we're able to watch the same show we've been watching here for years in German. And to be honest, it's just as entertaining in German as it is in Turkish."

Youtube-Video - Turkish television team in front of ZDF
A Turkish television team tried to visit German public broadcaster ZDFImage: Youtube/Yazma Bozma

Bizarre move by a Turkish reporter

It's not just the numerous editorials that reveal how big an interest Turks have in this story, but also a bizarre move by a reporter for the pro-government Turkish TV channel A Haber.

He tried to access ZDF's headquarters in Mainz on live TV. Böhmermann read the poem on the show, "Neo Magazin Royale," which is broadcast on the niche channel ZDFneo. The reporter was denied entry to the building, something he said was evidence of the poor state of press freedom in Germany. In his report, accompanied by dramatic music, he complained that ZDF staff insulted him by putting their hands in their pockets in his presence. The same reporter has drawn attention to himself in recent years by making up an interview he supposedly conducted with CNN journalist Christiane Amanpour about anti-Turkish sentiment at CNN.

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