Turkey has long discouraged free speech that targets (“insults”) public officials, even relatively low-ranking ones. However, the laws also have specifically “protected” the country’s president from insults for nearly a century, extending additional penalties to offenders. Its enforcement, however, rises and falls with the times. It’s getting worse recently, with jokes and poems on social media landing various government opponents and celebrities in prison. The Associated Press reports on the escalation:
There’s no monarch in democratic Turkey — but you might not know it watching the news these days.
It has become as easy to get jailed for offending the country’s paramount leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as it is in countries where lese majeste laws forbid insults to royals.
The law against insulting the president has been on the books for decades and is a legacy of the veneration reserved for Turkey’s founding father, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. But before Erdogan became president, legal analysts say, the law was used far less aggressively. Kerem Altiparkmak, a lecturer on human rights issues at Ankara University’s political science faculty, shared with AP a spreadsheet documenting 43 known cases involving some 80 people in the half-year that Erdogan has been president. That compares to only a handful of cases that were filed during former President Abdullah Gul’s seven-year term.