Turkey pursues legal action against Greek newspaper insulting Erdogan
Turkish prosecutors on Monday launched an investigation into Greek newspaper Dimokratia and its editors after it published a headline insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Dimokratia last week told Erdogan to “fuck off” in Turkish in the headline, in response to tensions over the eastern Mediterranean, where the two countries compete over disputed waters holding energy resources.
Ankara's prosecutor launched the investigation under the Turkish penal code, after Erdogan’s lawyers filed a complaint, which cited European Convention on Human Rights restrictions on the freedom of speech.
The complaint said that the headline was the ultimate representation of the moral decay in the Greek media. “The silence of Greek public opinion indicates this moral decay isn’t only limited to the marginal segments of the society,” it said.
Since the publication of the headline, several senior Turkish government officials have condemned the newspaper. Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said Ankara expects the Greek government to take administrative and criminal steps against the paper in response.
Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul also penned a letter to his Greek counterpart informing him the headline wasn’t acceptable.
However, the Greek foreign ministry said on Friday that freedom of the press was fully protected in Greece.
“This fact does not negate the obligation to refrain from insulting the personality of any individual, particularly a foreign leader,” it said. “The use of offensive language is contrary to our country’s political culture and can only be condemned.”
Dimokratia, on the other hand, released an editorial over the weekend saying that the front page had expressed “everything that all Greeks wanted to say in the last two months”.
The editorial claimed that the front page caused such a wave of excitement that it went viral on the internet and also attracted “threatening messages written in English” against the newspaper’s staff.
CNNTurk reported that the newspaper has many writers who could be construed as anti-Turkey pundits, such as Savvas Kalenterides, a former Greek agent who accompanied PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan during his travels to Africa. Another, Failos Kranidiotis, was Ocalan’s lawyer during his exile in Greece in 1999.
'The use of offensive language is contrary to our country’s political culture and can only be condemned'
- Greek foreign ministry
Tensions between the two countries since last week calmed after Turkey withdrew its ships from the disputed waters for maintenance. "This is a chance for diplomacy," Erdogan said during a televised news conference on Friday.
Insulting the president is a crime in Turkey. The number of criminal investigations opened in Turkey against individuals who allegedly insulted Erdogan rose 30 percent in 2018, official statistics shows.
The Turkish justice ministry’s “Judicial Statistics 2018” report noted 26,115 criminal investigations were conducted that year under Criminal Code Article 299, which punishes offenders with up to four years in prison.