• German envoy summoned after video lampoons human-rights record
  • EU's Juncker says Turkey isn't helping its membership bid

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government rejected Turkey’s criticism of a televised satire targeting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s human-rights record, saying the parody is protected by free speech.

The Turkish government summoned German Ambassador Martin Erdmann on March 22 to criticize the satire, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Sawsan Chebli said in Berlin. The video, aired by German public broadcaster NDR in March 17, uses clips of Erdogan played over a tune lampooning the Turkish leader that portrays him as curtailing civil rights.

“For the chancellor, this activity is fully covered by freedom of the press,” Merkel’s Christiane Wirtz, the German government’s deputy spokeswoman, told reporters Wednesday. “Germany’s position on the issue of press freedom and freedom of expression is that this is non-negotiable,” said Chebli.

The diplomatic row follows a European Union accord with Turkey to take back refugees that make their way to Greece over the Aegean Sea. The German-backed agreement was accompanied by criticism of Erdogan’s efforts to extend his presidential power and squelch dissent, including a crackdown on critical media.

Erdogan Wig

The German video, which makes fun of Erdogan with clips including the leader in a soccer uniform and wearing a wig, targets Erdogan’s treatment of protester and Kurds, alleged election irregularities and the construction of a presidential palace in Ankara. Turkey’s government hasn’t commented publicly on the video.

The German ambassador was among diplomats who attended a trial of two leading Turkish journalists in Istanbul on Friday. Erdogan lashed out at the diplomats, saying their presence at the court hearing violated Turkish sovereignty.

“Who are you? What business do you have over there?” Erdogan said in a speech Saturday to the foreign relations board of Turkey. “Diplomacy has an ethics. This is not your country, this is not your country, this is Turkey.”

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker backed Germany, saying Turkey’s objections weren’t in line with the standards of the EU, which Turkey is seeking to join.

“President Juncker does not appreciate this move of calling in the German ambassador just because of a satirical song,” Commission spokeswoman Mina Andreeva told reporters in Brussels. “He believes that this moves Turkey further from the EU rather than closer to us.”

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