Geneva refuses to remove critical Erdogan photo
The Geneva authorities have refused to remove a photograph from an exhibition in the city, which blames the death of a Turkish teenager on Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The Turkish authorities wanted the photo taken down.
In a statement released on Tuesday, the city of Geneva authorities said they backed freedom of expression and announced that they would maintain their authorisation so the exhibition can continue until May 1.
On Monday, the Geneva authorities received a complaint from the Turkish consulate to Switzerland demanding that an offending photograph of a dead teenager, which is part of an ongoing photo exhibition of demonstrations shown on the Place des Nations square in front of the European headquarters of the United Nations, be taken down.
The photo, by Swiss-Turkish photographer Demir Sönmez, who is of Kurdish and Armenian origin, shows a banner from March 2014, which proclaimed that Erdogan was responsible for the death of a teenager on the Place Taksin in Istanbul in June 2013. The caption on the photo reads: 'My name is Berkin Elvan. The police killed me on the orders of the Turkish prime minister'.
The authorities said on Tuesday that “the exhibition participates towards freedom of expression and highlights Geneva’s role as capital of human rights”.
The photo exhibition is supported by the city of Geneva and Reporters without Borders organisation.
The Geneva authorities reportedly have the support of the Swiss foreign ministry.
Spokseman Jean-Marc Crevoisier told the Tribune de Genève newspaper on Tuesday: “Switzerland has adopted the principle of freedom of expression, also for artists.”
He added that the final decision was down to the local authorities.
The controversy follows a political storm in Germany when legal proceedings were opened against satirist Jan Böhmermann on Ankara’s insistence. Böhmermann will face trial for making sexual innuendos about Erdogan on German television.
The decision to start a German prosecution against Böhmermann, based on 1871 legislation banning the defamation of foreign leaders, has drawn protests that the right of free speech has been undermined in Germany.
Just like Germany, Swiss law contains a clause prohibiting insults towards foreign leaders. In 2010, Switzerland applied its version of the law against a Geneva political group who made posters depicting Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi with the tagline “He Wants to Destroy Switzerland”. The case was dropped a year later when Gaddafi was overthrown.
Berkin Elvan received a serious head injury in June 2013 caused by a tear gas canister fired by police in his neighbourhood when he was out buying bread. His death on March 11, 2014, after 269 days in a coma, sparked protests by thousands of people in various Turkish cities, condemning Erdogan’s government. At the time he was prime minister.
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