The Cable

Good News, Germans! You Will Soon Be Able to Legally Insult Foreign Leaders.

What strictly coincidental timing.


What timing! Less than one week after U.S. President Donald Trump’s inauguration, Germany announced it will do away with the portion of its criminal code that makes it illegal to insult a foreign leader by Jan. 1, 2018.

The regulation, described by Justice Minister Heiko Maas as “obsolete and unnecessary,” is infrequently used, though it was invoked last year after comedian Jan Boehmermann read an “obscene poem” about Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on television. The case was dropped due to “lack of evidence,” although Erdogan still has a civil suit against the comedian, which will be decided in Hamburg on Feb. 10.

Perhaps Germany, independent of anything happening in the wider world, just decided the time had come to do away with the law. Or perhaps Maas noted that the new president of the United States takes to Twitter to insult the cast of comedy program Saturday Night Live. Who knows!

It is not all light-hearted jokes at foreign leaders’ expense in Germany, though. On Thursday, Deutsche Welle reported that German media found that, in 2016, roughly half of all right-wing extremists were prone to violence, and that the number of right-wing extremists is increasing.

This, a day after DW noted that Frauke Petry, head of the far-right populist party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), said the right to asylum should be removed from the German constitution. AfD’s party platform says “Islam does not belong in Germany.”

“The many fathers and rather fewer mothers of our constitution,” she said, “were thinking about a very small group of people, in the context of who should bear the responsibility of the atrocities of the Second World War in post-war Germany.” She does not believe Germans today have the same responsibility for today’s refugees — the implication that this law, too, is “obsolete and unnecessary.”

Frauke is hoping to lead her party to parliamentary glory in this year’s elections, and is openly critical both of CDU candidate and current chancellor Angela Merkel and of the center-left Social Democrats’ newly appointed candidate, Martin Schulz. Petry sharpened her Twitter nails to slam Schulz, tweeting “Symbol of EU bureaucracy and a deeply divided Europe as chancellor candidate?”

Insulting the opposition by Twitter: how very like one certain foreign leader, who will soon be fair game himself, at least in Germany.

Photo credit: TOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP/Getty Images

Emily Tamkin is the U.S. editor of the New Statesman and the author of The Influence of Soros, published July 2020. Twitter: @emilyctamkin

Trending Now Sponsored Links by Taboola

By Taboola

More from Foreign Policy

By Taboola