German Chancellor Angela Merkel has admitted that she had made mistakes in how she handled the case of a German satirist who insulted Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on live television.
Her criticism of comedian Jan Boehmermann’s satirical poem as “purposefully offensive” could have given the impression, incorrectly, that freedom of opinion and of the press were no longer important to her, Merkel said in Berlin.
She continued to defend her controversial decision to allow the courts to look into whether Boehmermann had criminally defamed the Turkish president.
Merkel said she was annoyed that her comments on Boehmermann’s poem gave the impression that her “personal assessment counted for something”.
“With hindsight that was a mistake,” she said, after a meeting with the premiers of the German federal states.
Her comments provoked criticism in Germany and abroad.
Merkel conceded that the comments had led people to believe she no longer cared for freedom of opinion and of the press, and said she wanted to set the record straight.
Free expression “is important to me, and it will continue to remain important to me, and that guides me in all talks”, she said ahead of a meeting today with Turkish Premier Ahmet Davutoglu.
Human rights and values would always feature in diplomatic discussions, “but human rights, rights to freedom, the rights of the press are indispensable assets”, she said.
“And that a situation can arise where it is thought that such things would be abandoned because we just made a deal with Turkey – that was flawed,” she said.
Merkel’s decision to allow a court case to go ahead had been viewed by many as a concession to Erdogan, who is pivotal in the European Union’s attempt to stem a massive wave of migration that saw more than 1mn people enter the bloc via the Mediterranean in 2015.
The EU recently signed a deal with Turkey to regulate the flow of migrants.
Netherlands scraps law on insulting heads of state
The Netherlands has decided to abolish a law that prohibits insulting foreign heads of state after a similar German law recently sparked controversy at home and abroad.
Following a cabinet meeting yesterday in The Hague, Justice Minister Ard van der Steuer called the rule outdated.
Several parties had pushed for the article to be scrapped as soon as possible in order for the Netherlands to avoid the sticky position Germany finds itself in.
Due to an obscure law, German talk show host Jan Boehmermann will be subjected to formal criminal proceedings for reciting a crude poem on German television in which he “insulted” Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
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