Germany: Court bans two-thirds of satirical poem mocking Turkish president

23 May 2016

A Hamburg court on 17 May 2016 banned the re-publication of 18 lines of a 24-line satirical poem written by German comedian Jan Böhmermann criticising Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, as they were deemed to be “abusive and libellous”, reported The Telegraph on 17 May 2016.

The court said it had to strike a balance between artistic freedom and the personal rights of Erdoğan, and that “the verses in question go beyond what the petitioner can be expected to tolerate”. Its decision, which can be appealed, will apply nation-wide.

The court did rule that the poem was indeed satire and that the lines criticising Erdoğan’s treatment of freedom of speech and minorities were allowed, but that the lines that had sexual references were “unacceptable”, reported BBC on 17 May 2016.

Böhmermann’s lawyer Christian Schertz criticised the court’s decision, calling it “wrong, given it deems those parts dealing with Erdoğan’s approach to freedom of expression to be acceptable”.

The controversy over the comedian’s poem began on 31 March 2016 when Böhmermann read his poem on his television programme, subsequently drawing ire from Turkey’s notoriously thin-skinned president, who filed a complaint against the comedian using an infrequently used section of the German criminal code concerning insulting foreign state representatives.

The German government has to decide whether to pursue such complaints and in April 2016 German chancellor Angela Merkel gave the go-ahead for prosecutors to conduct a criminal inquiry. German news agency Deutsche Welle reported on 17 May 2016 that prosecutors have yet to decide if they will file charges against the comedian.


» The Independent – 18 May 2016:
Erdogan poem: Court bans German comedian Jan Böhmermann from repeating controversial issues

» BBC – 17 May 2016:
German court rules against comic Boehmermann over Erdogan poem

» Deutsche Welle – 17 May 2016:
Court grants Erdogan injunction against comedian Jan Böhmermann

» The Telegraph – 17 May 2016:
German court bans sections of poem mocking Turkish president Erdogan

Related information

» – 18 April 2016:
Germany: Comedian faces potential prosecution for criticising Turkish president

Home / News / Germany: Court bans two-thirds of satirical poem mocking Turkish president

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