We have been discussing the roll back on free speech rights in Germany and the recent controversy over Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision to first apologize to authoritarian Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for a satirical poem and then approve the prosecution of the comedian is a shocking and chilling disgrace. The crackdown on comedian Jan Boehmermann has shocked many the West. Despite the global condemnations of Merkel and her government in its yielding to Erdogan, there is at least one German judge who shows the same Merkelian disregard for free speech. A court in Hamburg banned Boehmermann from publicly reading his poem. Indeed, the court ruled that only six lines of the 24-line poem could be recited. It is an absurd case of prior restraint and a chilling example of how free speech is under attack in the West.
The case was sparked by Boehmermann’s recital of his “Defamatory Poem” on national television in March. That led to Erdogen’s demand for prosecution and Merkel’s yielding to the Turkish strongman. Now she has a willing German jurist to crush free speech. The Court ruled that “Erdogan does not have to put up with the expression of certain passages in view of their outrageous content attacking (his) honour.” Really, an authoritarian leader destroyed civil liberties in Turkey “does not have to put up” with the exercise of free speech in Germany.
We have previously discussed the alarming rollback on free speech rights in the West, particularly in France (here and here and here and here and here and here) and England ( here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here). Much of this trend is tied to the expansion of hate speech and non-discrimination laws. We have seen comedians targeted with such court orders under this expanding and worrisome trend. (here and here).
Merkel has plunged Germany into this rising sea of censorship and criminalized speech. Fortunately, polls show Germans are opposed to her and this appeasement of Erdogan. However, she is a politician from East Germany who grew up under communist rule. This is someone who fashioned himself or herself as a jurist but cannot imagine why a budding dictator would have to “put up with” free speech.