A Lebanese TV show host is set to stand trial over remarks made against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during a talk show broadcast in June, after Turkish authorities called for action.
Neshan Der Haroutiounian, the host of the popular show, “Ana Heik”, which broadcasts on Lebanon’s Al-Jadeed channel, is set to face trial in October, according to Lebanon’s National News Agency (NNA).
The Lebanese host made the inflammatory comments in a 10 June broadcast. According to the New Arab, during an interview with former Environment Minister Wiam Wahab, Der Haroutiounian answered a question from an audience member who accused him of racism for calling Erdogan evil.
Der Haroutiounian responded, “… [Erdogan is] evil and the son of a million evil men”, adding that his comments were directed at “Erdogan, the [Turkish] regime, the Ottomans and the Turks”.
The comments sparked outrage, with the Turkish Embassy in Lebanon releasing a statement saying it “strongly condemns the verbal insults”, NNA reported.
“During this episode, Wahab and Der Haroutiounian publicly and directly offended the President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as well as the Turkish people. Such insults can in no case be defended under the pretext of freedom of expression,” the press release read.
Turkish authorities later requested legal proceedings against Der Haroutiounian be initiated in order to “guarantee the respect of the Turkish President in all Lebanese media”.
In response, Hani Chmeitli, the secretary-general of the Lebanese Foreign Ministry, called on Lebanon’s Ministry for Information to take “necessary measures… knowing that such attacks would disturb the relations of Lebanon with foreign countries”.
According to a report by AFP, the Turkish government has been eager to quash anti-Erdogan sentiments, and in early June criticised Twitter for suspending more than 7,000 accounts that supported the president and his AKP party.
The social media giant claimed the profiles were “being used to amplify political narratives favourable to the AK Parti, and demonstrated strong support for President Erdogan”, terming the accounts tweets, “coordinated inauthentic activity”.
In response, Ankara’s communications director, Fahrettin Altun, called Twitter’s evidence “unscientific, utterly biased and politically motivated”, terming the decision to suspend the 7,000 accounts an attempt to “redesign Turkish politics”.