Wednesday, April 20, 2016
Burak Bekdil, Gatestone Institute: Erdogan: The World's Most Insulted President
by Burak Bekdil
Burak Bekdil, based in Ankara, is a Turkish columnist for the Hürriyet Daily and a Fellow at the Middle East Forum.
Since Erdogan was elected president in August 2014 he has sued at least 1,845 people for insulting him.
Now his judicial challenges have been exported to Europe.
The law allows prosecution in Germany for insulting a foreign leader, but only with the consent of the government. German Chancellor Angela Merkel granted her consent for the prosecution of German comedian Jan Böhmermann, although she promised that the law allowing legal proceedings would be repealed in 2018.
All that would be a story of no importance in Turkey, where journalists tend to weigh their words more carefully these days, several newspapers have been seized or closed in recent months, broadcasters taken off air and prominent journalists getting prosecuted on charges of insult, for being members of terrorist organization or even for being spies. But Merkel's decision to allow Böhmermann's prosecution hardly complies with the European culture of civil liberties.
Rebecca Harms, co-chair of the Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance at the European Parliament (EP), said that "[after Merkel's go-ahead for legal proceedings] now the Turkish journalists and artists will even suffer more."
Merkel's support for Erdogan's increasingly prickly psyche came after two important reports highlighted Turkey's disturbingly autocratic regime. From across the Atlantic, the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, released annually by the U.S. Department of State, provided a clear snapshot of the deteriorating human rights violations in Turkey. It said that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government's interference with freedom of expression, arbitrary application of laws and inadequate protection of civilians in the country's southeast pose great threats to civil rights and liberties. The report also observed that: "Impunity and weak administration of justice is another issue of concern, as certain laws were applied too broadly and inconsistently ... Wide leeway granted to prosecutors and judges contributed to politically motivated investigations."
Back in the Old Continent, the European Parliament issued sharp criticisms of Turkey and warned in plain language that the European Union candidate country was "backsliding" on democracy, human rights and the rule of law. EP Rapporteur Kati Piri said after the annual progress report on Turkey: "The overall pace of reforms in Turkey has not only slowed down but in some key areas, such as freedom of expression and the independence of the judiciary, there has been a regression, which is particularly worrying."