Dutch daily’s cartoon depicts Erdogan as ape crushing free speech

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan © Joshua Roberts
A front-page caricature went public in a popular Dutch daily De Telegraaf, showing Turkish President Recep Tayip Erdogan as a sinister ape squashing freedom of speech in Europe.

The cartoon illustrates a brawny ape with President Erdogan’s face – turned red and puffy – squashing a slim woman resembling Dutch columnist Ebru Umar.

In the caricature, called “The long arm of Erdogan”, the Turkish president stands on a rock labeled “Apenrots,” Dutch for “ape rocks.” The word is also used to refer to a place in The Hague where the Foreign Ministry’s premises are located.

The Dutch cartoon is a reflection on the latest developments in Ankara’s crackdown on freedom of speech in Turkey and beyond.

Umar’s case appears to be the most recent in the growing log of media crackdowns in Turkey. She was arrested on Saturday over tweets Ankara said “insulted” Erdogan, and released on Sunday on condition she stays in Turkey and reports to the police.

In another case, earlier in April, German TV comic Jan Böhmermann read out a poem accusing Erdogan of child abuse and inclination to bestiality after Ankara expressed anger at a satirical clip by rival show Extra 3. Responding to Turkey’s demand to indict Böhmermann, Chancellor Angela Merkel allowed him to be prosecuted under a little-used law dating back to the 19th century.

Merkel’s decision created a storm in Germany, with some critics accusing the government of making concessions to Ankara and saying the EU is largely dependent on Turkey to stem the flow of refugees.

On Tuesday, German prosecutors said in a statement that they want to interview Böhmermann to decide if there are any grounds to proceed with his case.

In Turkey, the opposition media are under severe pressure from the government. Previously, the Cihan news agency was raided and seized by the police, just days after a similar action against the popular opposition newspaper Zaman.