German comedian Jan Böhmermann will take a four-week break from his Neo Magazin Royale TV show, while his satirical poem about the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is being reviewed by the court.
The public broadcaster ZDF said they respected Böhmermann’s decision and would provide him with legal aid.
In a statement he said that his break would allow the public and the internet to shift their focus to important things. He said he would benefit from the break to learn about freedom of the press while “travelling through North Korea.”
Article 103 of the German penal code forbids intentional defamation of foreign leaders. Böhmermann composed and recited a condescending poem on his show on March 31, accusing the Turkish President of misogyny, bestiality and pedophilia.
The ZDF has taken off the infamous poem from its social media accounts. On Thursday, the station’s editors sent an open letter to employees to morally support their colleague against the decision of the director.
As the law requires, Erdogan personally pressed charges against Böhmermann. Despite opposition from her own parliamentary group, against the advice of Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Justice Minister Heiko Maas, the German chancellor Angela Merkel conceded to having the case against the comedian proceed.
Balancing impressions, the Chancellor also said that the law that allows for the prosecution of the comedian (par. 103) would be abolished by 2018 and extended her solidarity to oppressed journalists in Turkey. In the meanwhile, the Böhmermann will not be doing any travelling. He has left his home in Cologne, maintains Twitter silence, gives no interviews, and is under police protection.
The substance of the comedians poem and the principle of freedom of speech have polarized public opinion in Germany. Support for Böhmermann is strong, but is not full-hearted.