A situation involving a German television comic who faces potential prosecution for “insulting” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during a recent satirical presentation has led to revelations of a little-known Cayman law prohibiting the defamation of foreign leaders.
Cayman, like Germany, has essentially the same formulation in its Penal Code, but the statute is referred to as “the defamation of foreign princes.” Mr. Erdogan complained recently to the German government that presenter Jan Bohmermann’s satirical claim on television that the Turkish president was a fan of child pornography, among other off-color comments, amounted to untrue and damaging claims.
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said his country would not tolerate any insults directed at Mr. Erdogan’s “honor” and that those comments would not go without a response.
Under the German legislation, the government must accept such a claim of defamation prior to its investigation by authorities. Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed to allow the probe last week. A spokesperson for Merkel noted “satire takes place within our country’s press and media freedom, which – as you know – is not unlimited.”
The decision has been widely panned in the German press, which fears the decision as a harbinger of things to come, and noting that Mr. Erdogan could simply have sued for defamation in this particular instance.
It’s not clear from the wording of Cayman’s similar statute whether Mr. Erdogan would fall under the definition of those who should not legally be insulted, but it appears he could be considered a “foreign dignitary.”
Section 65 of the Penal Code reads: “A person who, without such justification as excuse as would be sufficient on the defamation of a private person, publishes in any manner whatsoever anything tending to degrade, revile, or expose to hatred or contempt any foreign prince potentate, ambassador or other foreign dignitary with intent to disturb peace and friendship between the United Kingdom or the islands and the country to which such prince, potentate, ambassador or dignitary belongs commits an offense.”
Cayman law makes the defamation of any individual a criminal offense. Materials that are defamatory include anything likely to injure the reputation of the person by exposing them to hatred, contempt or ridicule, or which is likely to damage the person in their profession by injury to a reputation.