Van Kaam advocaten


IP, media and privacy law are constantly moving. Its boundaries are challenged daily. What's allowed and what's not. Herein lies the core of our work. Work that keeps challenging and inspiring us.

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Erdogan, German humor and satire

The Greeks, the Romans and even the old Egyptians used satire to criticize pressing issues. The work of Desiderius Erasmus ''Lof der zotheid'' from 1511 shows that The Netherlands has a long tradition using satire. What is the state of affairs in Europe in the year 2016? The German ambassador got summoned in Ankara for a saticial film about Erdogan. Is there any reason for concern?

Case-law shows us that not everything is well in Europe. For example the 2010 case on a carnival parade in Portugal, in which a mayor was playfully ridiculed. What followed was a criminal conviction with a penalty of more than € 4,000. In Europe, high fines have been imposed in many cases and prison sentences for humorous utterances were also dished out. Even the right to continue working as a journalist has been taken away as punishment.


The ECHR is the highest court regarding the freedom of expression in nearly fifty countries, including Russia and Turkey. The court in Strasburg sees satire as an integral part of the fundamental right to hold and disseminate ideas and opinions. The ECHR has intervened in the cases mentioned above and halted the national judges, prosecutors and plaintiffs. It is of course unfortunate that it had to come to that point in the first place. At the moment the ECHR intervenes, a long and expensive process that has a chilling effect in itself, will have preceded the final judgment. The heavy penalties hanging over the head of the accused are clearly intimidating.


The German public broadcasting corporation NDR thought humor was the ideal way to discuss the subject of repression in Turkey. They made a short film about Turkish president Erdogan. He started proceedings in Turkey against people who have offended him in his view. Turkey now provides a stream of case-law in which a disturbing pattern can be discovered. Editorial offices are emptied of their computers and information, journalists detained and internet blockades are a reality in Turkey. If the Turkish government does not approve harsh intervention will follow, especially when it concerns Erdogan in person.


Europe isn't bothered in the slightest by the complaints of Erdogan, who claims the film needs to disappear completely from the internet. His action basically leads to two conclusions. Firstly, the Streisand-effect, which means that unfounded and overblown claims will simply lead to more attention for the issue being fought. Secondly, the chance to show that in Europe satire and humor are important and legitimate stylistic tools.