Dutch MPs want to scrap ban on insulting Erdogan, world leaders

A motion to get rid of a Netherlands law that makes insulting a friendly head of state a criminal offense, received quite a bit of support in the Tweede Kamer – the lower house of Dutch Parliament – on Friday, the Volkskrant reports.

The motion was submitted by VVD parliamentarian Joost Taverne, in response to controversy surrounding German comedian Jan Böhmermann calling Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan a “goat fucker”, among other things. The German prosecutor is now investigating possible prosecution against the comedian after Erdogan filed a complaint.

Taverne thinks this unacceptable, pointing out that the next time it may be a Dutch cartoonist being prosecuted because a foreign head of state feels offended. “Our freedom of speech must never be called into question by a foreign leader like Erdogan. Humor, satire, mockery and insult are part of our open and free society”, Taverne said. “It can not be allowed that foreign leaders try to undermine our fundamental rights through the courts.”

The motion received quite a bit of support in the Tweede Kamer. The D66 believes that it should never be possible for people to “be prosecuted because they made a joke”. The party has been working on a similar proposal for some time.

Both the SP and PvdA think the statutory position unnecessary. “Anyone who feels offended can report it. A separate hook for heads of state is completely unnecessary. We can insult our own Prime Minister, so why not those of another country too?” SP MP Ronald van Raak said. Jeroen Recourt of the PvdA expressed a similar sentiment, pointing out that “every foreigner, head of state or not, who feels offended from within the Netherlands can report it.”

Group Bontes/Van Klaveren and PVV also supported the proposal.

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