A group of Turks in Avignon, France, succeeded in the removal of a publicity poster for the French magazine Le Point, which in its latest issue described Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as a dictator.
A video shared on social media shows a group of Turkish-speaking people having a discussion with workers who put the Le Point poster on a billboard. The workers then started to remove the poster.
The cover of Le Point with a photo of Erdoğan reads “The dictator. How far will Erdoğan go?”
According to the reports in French media, Avignon Mayor has had the Le Point’s cover poster put on back in company with police. While the event has ignited a debate over freedom of expression, Le Point expressed that the publication was within the scope of freedom of expression.
French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday strongly criticized the removal of cover posters of Le Point magazine from kiosk billboards by a group of Turks in Avignon, calling it a move by “enemies of freedom.”
“It is totally unacceptable for @LePoint posters to be removed from kiosks because they do not please the enemies of freedom in France or abroad. The freedom of the press has no price: without it, it is dictatorship,” Macron tweeted.
Harlem Désir, Organization for Security and Co-operation (OSCE) Representative on Freedom of the Media, gave support to Le Point and said in Twitter post that “the intimidation against free media and trying to export censorship to other countries is unacceptable.”
Christophe Deloire, the head of media freedom group Reporters without Borders, said that the incidents in France were “isolated but have a strong symbolic resonance.”
One of the leading figures in France’s ruling Republic on the Move Party, Richard Ferrand, called the protests in southern France an “unacceptable breach of the freedom of expression.” “We are not going to tolerate in France that the front cover of a magazine be somehow censored under pressure,” he told the France 3 channel on May 27.
According to a report by Germany’ Deutsche Welle (DW), the French magazine’s latest issue offered a new investigation into the Erdoğan’s policies and included an editorial that asked whether Erdoğan is a “new Hitler,” referring to the former dictator and mass murderer that led Nazi Germany during World War II.
Over the weekend, Erdoğan supporters took to the streets in several French cities to decry the cover of the left-leaning magazine. In the southern city of Avignon, police were deployed after a group of Erdogan’s supporters tried to remove posters advertising the magazine at a kiosk.
The kiosk owner told Le Point afterward that the men threatened to set his establishment on fire if he failed to remove the posters. “After a week of harassment, insults, intimidation and anti-Semitic slurs and threats toward us on social media, now has come the moment when the supporters of [Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party] are attacking symbols of freedom of expression and diversity in the press,” Le Point said on its website.
President Erdoğan’s spokesman, İbrahim Kalın, on Friday tweeted about Le Point’s cover: “A French magazine called President Erdoğan a dictator. We know these attacks. We know their goals. Our nation and all oppressed nations see what is going on. The days when Turkey took orders from you are over. You cannot bring those days back by calling [Erdoğan] a ‘dictator’.”
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu on May 29 hit back at French President Macron over his criticism of Ankara’s remarks regarding a weekly magazine that referred to President Erdoğan as “the dictator.”
In a tweet, Çavuşoğlu backed Erdoğan supporters in France who tried to tear down images of the front cover story on newsstands. “Democracy is not just limited to accepting insults, curses and lies by one side but also taking into account the point of view and sensitivities of the other,” Çavuşoğlu wrote on Twitter on May 29 in reply to a tweet by Macron.
“What goes beyond that is hypocrisy. It is in response to that that the Turkish community in France has expressed its civil and democratic reaction,” he added.
Burhan Kuzu, a senior member and deputy of Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) on Sunday called Macron an “enemy of Turkey” and “enemy of Muslims,” along with other leaders including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, US President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. (SCF with turkishminute.com)