Turkish PM calls reprinting of Charlie Hebdo cartoons ‘deliberate provocation’
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu speaks during a press briefing in Ankara on Jan. 14. AFP Photo
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has strongly criticized daily Cumhuriyet for reprinting the Charlie Hebdo cartoon featuring the Prophet Muhammad, saying freedom of expression “does not grant anybody the right to insult another’s beliefs.”
Cumhuriyet’s move to print a selection of Charlie Hebdo caricatures has “nothing to do with freedom of expression,” Davutoğlu said on Jan. 15.
“Freedom of the press does not mean freedom to insult. In particular, if it is an insult against a Prophet who has been a ‘mercy to the worlds,’ and who has a much greater meaning than our personalities and characters, this is not freedom of the press,” Davutoğlu said, using a verse from the Quran when using the description “mercy to the worlds.”
“It is obvious that people who can even take an insult against them with tolerance and patience cannot take it to the same extent when there is an insult against the Prophet. If some are printing a caricature that features an insult to the Prophet, when this is the situation, when there is such sensitivity in Turkey, then there is a provocation here,” he added.
The prime minister’s remarks, delivered ahead of his departure for Brussels where he was scheduled to hold meetings with top EU leaders, came a day after police stopped trucks leaving Cumhuriyet newspaper’s printing center and checked the paper’s content after it decided to print a selection of Charlie Hebdo caricatures. The paper printed a four-page selection of cartoons and articles in a show of solidarity with Charlie Hebdo.
Cumhuriyet stated that the police allowed distribution to proceed after thinking that the satirical French newspaper’s latest cover featuring the Prophet was not published. However, two Cumhuriyet columnists used small black-and-white images of the cover as their column headers in the Jan. 14 edition.
“In this country, we don’t allow insults to the Prophet. This is a very clear, sharp and principled stance. Everybody should know this. This matter has also been explained to the press institutions,” Davutoğlu said, stopping short of saying whether the government had specifically contacted Cumhuriyet executives and warned them not to print the caricatures.
It wasn’t immediately clear whether the columnists’ use of the cover image escaped the attention of the police.
“While preparing this selection, we respected society’s freedom of faith and religious sensitivities,” Cumhuriyet editor-in-chief Utku Çakırözer said in a statement.
“There may have been some [people] who were worried that this would be an issue that would belittle religious beliefs ... But I believe that people won’t think that way when they see today’s issue,” Çakırözer later told the Associated Press.
On the two columnists’ decision to use the Charlie Hebdo images in their columns, he said this “was the personal choice of our writers.”