Reflection: “Media and Freedom” conference in Izmir

Reflection: “Media and Freedom” conference in Izmir

We were only too happy to accept the invitation of the Goethe Institute in Izmir to take part in the conference “Media and Freedom”, which, to get a quick conclusion, was both in terms of timing and due to the current relevance of the Mohammed caricatures and the currently discussed film “Innocence of Muslims” and the content of the selection of speakers from Turkey and Germany could not have been better.

During the conference, in keeping with the theme, the collection of political cartoons provided by the German cartoonist Klaus Stuttmann was opened in the auditorium of the host Yasar University.

We had already arrived in Izmir the day before the conference because Yasar University in the Bornova district was unknown to us and we didn't want to miss any of the conferences. Shortly after our arrival, we were very pleasantly surprised by the university complex right next to the large Bornova motorway junction with a very interesting architectural design and an open space designed as a huge inner courtyard, which was equipped with seating elements and plants and was practically an obvious place for relaxation and breaks. Completely shielded from the noise of the highway and the big city by our own buildings, we would have liked to experience being a student here again.

medienkonferenz 01After the conference opened punctually with greetings from the head of the Goethe Institute Izmir, Mr. Roland Schmidt, further greetings were given by Mr. Atilla Sertel, the President of the Izmir Journalists' Association, by Ms. Sema Pekdas, the President of the Izmir Bar Association, by Ms. Margit Häberle, Consul General of the Federal Republic of Germany and the Rector of Yasar University, Prof. Dr. Murat Barkan.

The entire conference took place over two days and was split into one session in the morning and one session in the afternoon, so that Yasar University students also had the opportunity to take part in the sessions according to their time schedule. And so, we were no longer surprised by the lively participation in the conference, which was received in the Yasar University lecture hall bilingually in German and Turkish with corresponding simultaneous translation into the other language of the speaker's language via the headphone system. Only in the case of two speakers it was hardly possible for the interpreters to follow the translation, so quickly they rained down factual knowledge on the listeners.

medienkonferenz 02In the first part of the meeting, which was led by Prof. Dr. Ünal Narmanlioglu from Yasar University, Professor Dr. Gülgün Tosun, head of the journalism department at Ege University, presents the current situation regarding “media freedom in Turkey” using some case studies that have also appeared in the foreign, especially German, press regarding the wave of arrests of Turkish journalists on charges of involvement on terrorism, are hotly debated. Some of them were arrested without any legal charges, but it wasn't just the foreign press that protested. This is followed by a lecture on the topic “Freedom of Expression and Democracy” by Dr. Serkan Ekiz from the university's law faculty, who refers to the regulations in Turkey's constitutional law and warns urgently about the consequences of press censorship through changed legislation or simply changed interpretation of the laws. The students present also participated quite actively in the discussion that followed.

After a coffee break, the second part of the meeting follows, under the motto “Freedom of the press and its economic conditions” under the direction of Prof. Dr. Korkmaz Alemdar as a former member of the H.R.F.R. he follows. Here, Prof. Dr. from the field of journalism and communication sciences from the Free University of Berlin will give a lecture. Klaus Beck on the topic “Political Economy of the Media: Resources and Limits of Media Freedom”. The focus of his remarks is on explaining the connections between the economic interests of media publishers on the one hand and the interests of free journalism as investigative and disclosing employees of these same media publishers. The conflicts between these two contradictory orientations often lead to restrictions on the free press. In the second presentation below, Prof. Dr. Dogan Altuner from the Faculty of Economics and Administrative Sciences presented the current situation in Turkey. His main topic is “Economy and operation of the press in Turkey”. He also sees the links on the part of media producers with purely economic interests and connections to politics as one of the big problems of truly free journalism.

medienkonferenz 03After the lunch break, which was spent in the Yasar University cafeteria, the third part of the session with the topic “Media and Freedom of Art” begins under the leadership of Prof. Gören Bolut as Dean of the Faculty of Art and Design. Prof. Dr. who came from the University of Leipzig Helmut Goerlich, who reads constitutional and administrative law, constitutional history and state church law in Leipzig, will give a lecture on the topic of “Secularity – a prerequisite for freedom of art”. His lecture is primarily about the connection between state and religion, which is actually already forbidden by law in the countries in question, but in reality has very close connections. The influence of religion on the state in Germany can now be described as declining, while in Turkey the opposite trend is becoming more and more noticeable.

This is followed by the presentation by Prof. Dr. Friedhelm Hufen, constitutional and administrative law expert at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, who uses concrete examples to clearly convey what freedom and art are allowed to do and what their limits are. Thankfully, Prof. Dr. He gave Hufen his concept paper so that we can take some passages directly from it and with his consent. His lecture entitled “The protection of caricature through freedom of art and freedom of expression according to German constitutional law” begins with an example from German history and the question: What is satire allowed to do? At the end of the Weimar Republic, the German poet and journalist Kurt Tucholsky answered this question very clearly: Satire is allowed to do anything! As a result, this statement brought him countless lawsuits and, fortunately, timely emigration abroad right at the beginning of the Nazi era.

“The rule of law and freedom of a legal system can be judged not least by how they deal with their artists and also with harsh criticism in the form of caricature and satire,” says Prof. Dr. hooves away. This question is not just about the fundamental rights of artists, cartoonists and writers but also always about the protection of the fundamental rights of those attacked. And only here do the true freedoms of expression become apparent, which can be seen in the examples of the Mohammed caricatures: Prophet with a bomb, in the video: “Innocence of the Muslims”, in the Pope caricature with yellow and brown spots on the white cassock and the words: “Finally discovered: the leak in the Vatican” and described using the example of “Pussy Riot” at Cologne Cathedral.

medienkonferenz 04“Muslims are not the only ones who are offended by such examples. Unlike most Catholics, however, they resort to violence and resistance against the nations of magazines and actors.” Like in the calls for murder against Salman Rushdie.

But the religious feelings of the population and privacy are also protected interests of the constitution, which must be carefully balanced with the freedom rights mentioned (“practical concordance”). “Either artistic freedom or personal rights” and the quick call for bans are not a solution, says Prof. Dr. hooves.

“From a constitutional perspective, the question does not arise as to whether certain expressions of opinion and other perceptions of fundamental freedom are “permitted”. Rather, the fundamental question is whether the protected freedom may be encroached upon and whether such an encroachment is justified with regard to the rights of others or important common goods. The legal case resolution takes place in three steps:

  • Does an action fall within the scope of protection of a fundamental right? - so is it art, opinion, press?
  • Does a state sanction or a private sanction tolerated by the state constitute an interference with fundamental rights?
  • Is the interference justified by law or an equivalent fundamental right?”

Prof. Dr. Hufen: “The videos, caricatures and photos mentioned are fundamentally protected by basic communication rights. To the extent that they express an opinion, freedom of expression (Art. 5 Para. 1 1st Alt. GG) comes into consideration. If they are disseminated in the press and radio, the protected area of freedom of the press and broadcasting (Art. 5 Para. 1 2nd Alternative GG) is opened. To the extent that they are an expression of creative design and a specific artistic formal language, artistic freedom (Art. 5 Para. 3 GG) must also be observed. Even bad art is art, tabloids are press, a malicious opinion is an opinion. The hate video “Innocence of Muslims” and the Pope caricature are protected initially by artistic freedom, but at least by freedom of expression.”

“It is therefore an unreasonable restriction on fundamental freedom if it is assumed from the outset that only those statements are protected that are not offensive, affect the rights of others or hurt religious feelings. Rather, such questions should only be asked in the third step of the examination, when it comes to the allocation and balancing of rights.

Commandments and prohibitions, civil or criminal sanctions, blocks on the Internet in response to expressions of opinion, caricatures, etc. represent interference with freedom of expression, freedom of the press or art.

Rather, the limits of freedom are only exceeded when the content behind the satirical form no longer applies to the public debate on a factual issue related to religion, but rather only wants to insult and denigrate the religion, its representatives or founders of religion as such. Politicians call this “abusive criticism” – people are humiliated and dragged into the mud without reference to the content.”

According to the above-mentioned standards, all cartoons that deal with topics such as the role of women, abuse of religion for violence, attempts to influence worldly decisions, moral backwardness, etc. are generally permitted.

The limits of Section 166 of the Criminal Code are exceeded if the religion or a founder or religious leader as such is denigrated or despised without any reference to one of the above-mentioned topics. This can be the case, for example, with gross distortions, insinuations that cannot be justified by historical facts and sexual innuendo.

How can Catholics and Muslims defend themselves? They are also allowed to demonstrate, publish letters and are protected by Article 8. In the context of public debate and with its means, the verbal “resistance” of communities under attack is not only permitted, but is even protected under constitutional law.

But: The limits of resistance are clearly exceeded if this causes life and limb or even terrorist attacks on a democratic state and its representatives or consciously accepts it.

No call for murder against Salman Rushdie, no burning down of the Titanic reaction. Those who recommend banning the video “Innocence of Muslims” for fear of violent reactions against German embassies or demonstrations in Germany are also not right.

Resolution of individual cases

Mohammed caricatures: Permitted: Prophet with bomb and depiction of a veiled woman as a factual discussion of the topic of Islam and violence and the “role of women in Islam”.

Video: “Innocence of Muslims”. To the extent that this video portrays the Prophet as a paedophile, sex addict and mentally confused person without any factual reference, it constitutes insults and insults within the meaning of Section 166 of the Criminal Code and may be banned.

But that doesn't change the inadmissibility of threats of violence.

Pope cartoon. The Catholic Church's stance on birth control, homosexuality and discrimination against women as well as cases of abuse in the church can give rise to sharp and exaggerated caricatures and dramatic depictions that even go beyond the limits of good taste. (Example: Pope with condom over his index finger, “lustful priest”, pop singer in crucifixion pose).

However, they do not justify the portrayal of the Pope as an incontinent old man, which obviously violates human dignity (no factual reference to the “Vatileaks affair”). So, it was a mistake that the Catholic Church withdrew the complaint in the “Titanic” case.

The statements and examples of Prof. Dr. In our opinion, Friedhelm Hufens were very well suited to show the entire spectrum of media freedom while at the same time honouring human rights. This was the reason for us to adopt parts of the statements directly.

At the end of the third session, Prof. Dr. Nazli Bayram from Yasar University in the field of communication on the topic “The freedom of film and Turkish cinema.

medienkonferenz 05tAfter a short coffee break, the speaker Dr. Michael Rediske, managing director of the Berlin Brandenburg Journalists Association, who is also the board spokesman for “Reporters Without Borders”, gave his lecture on the topic “Europe and freedom of the press – still a role model or already left behind”. In his role as board spokesman for Reporters Without Borders, the speaker is very critical of the current events in Turkey with the ongoing wave of arrests. The question of setting up a European institution to protect journalists can only be responded to with national activities, since initially there are no international legal options and the national legal regulations vary so much from country to country that uniform regulations seem far away. said the speaker. In these cases, the institution “Reporters Without Borders” can do little about the situation other than registration and publication, as only national law applies here. At the end of the fourth session, the Turkey correspondent and journalist for the Süddeutsche Zeitung, Ms. Christiane Schlötzer, will give a lecture on the topic of “Freedom of the press and caricatures in Germany”.

After the subsequent discussion, the caricature exhibition will be opened in the auditorium of Yasar University at around 6:30 p.m. The illustrator Klaus Stuttmann, known for his political caricatures, kindly made more than 30 of his caricatures available to the Goethe Institute. Unfortunately, due to further appointments, Mr. Stuttmann was unable to attend the opening of the exhibition himself. During the day, countless students took advantage of the opportunity to look at the cartoons that were displayed. However, each with Turkish subtitles, the images themselves were meaningful enough to be easily understood.

Friday morning begins with the opening of the fifth session led by Prof. Dr. Ali Nazim Sözer from Yasar University Faculty of Law. The first speaker is Prof. Dr. Rüdiger Steinmetz from the University of Leipzig, who will present his presentation on “New media and the supervision of private radio, television and internet facilities”. Prof. Dr. Rüdiger Steinmetz works in the field of media studies and media culture, and at the same time he is a member of the Saxon State Institute for Private Broadcasting and New Media. This is followed by the presentation “Freedom of the press in Germany and self-regulation of the press by the Press Council”, presented by the journalist Sigrun Müller-Gerbes, who is also a member of the Press Council. Examples of published articles and reports are presented, some of which were factually incorrect or discriminatory. In such cases, the Press Council intervenes and is also able to impose sanctions against the editors or journalists. Due to the regulations in voluntary self-regulation and the associated submission of editors and journalists to the Press Council, everything from warnings to corrections can be demanded, which must also be published by the editor himself.

medienkonferenz 06After the following coffee break, the sixth session takes place with the topic “The new media and state supervision in Turkey. The speaker Prof. Dr. Korkmaz Alemdar presents his presentation on the topic of “Media and public order in Turkey”, which also mentions the well-known examples of the closure of well-known websites by the Turkish government such as YouTube, the legal validity of which is at least doubtful. Further examples of closures are also noticed by the attentive audience and lead to discussions in the audience. The event will be continued by Prof. Dr. Ümit Atabek, who will speak on the topic “The new media and the regulations of the Internet in Turkey”.

After lunch, Prof. Dr. Ümit Atabek chaired the seventh meeting, which now includes the presentation by Prof. Dr. Mustafa Ruhan Erdem continues. As dean of the law faculty at Yasar University, he chose the topic: “The regulations for protecting the judiciary from media influence in Turkey”. Unfortunately, on Friday afternoon at least student participation had noticeably decreased. We were unable to conclusively research whether this was solely due to the rather dry subject matter of legal issues or whether it had led to scheduling conflicts.

This was followed by the lecture by Dr. Gottfried Plagemann from the Faculty of Law at Istanbul University, who is also a specialist in the areas of criminal and criminal procedure law. His topic: “Media and justice in Germany – mutual control and support. The conference concluded with lawyer Özkan Yücel, who spoke on the topic of “Justice, freedom of the press and human dignity. As a member of the board of the Izmir Bar Association, he was able to provide a reliable overview of the numbers of currently imprisoned journalists and dissidents, some of whom are imprisoned without a court order due to the interpretation of some anti-terrorism laws in Turkey.

medienkonferenz 07A truly insightful series of sessions that provided a deep insight into the structure of the media, press freedom legislation and its consequences for free journalism, freedom of expression and the protection of human rights. Despite the legal text of these two countries, Turkey and Germany, often being almost identical, the interpretation and interpretation could hardly be more different. Once again it became clear how important freedom of expression is for every individual, because without it, democracy cannot function at all. And what applies to every individual is particularly striking for journalists. Time and resources for research and detailed investigation, protecting one's own sources, especially from state authorities, and job security are of immense importance for journalists and thus for freedom and democracy in the country.

Please read as well:

Swedish Kanelbullar – the slightly different cinnamon rolls

Van Gogh Museum and the Concert-Gebouw


Life | Outdoors