A Turkish Court Wants To Ask LOTR Experts If This Gollum Meme Is Offensive

Photo: Moviestore Collection/REX Shutterstock.
This Lord of the Rings meme could have serious consequences. Dr. Bilgin Çiftçi, a doctor in Turkey, reportedly lost his job at a hospital after posting a series of photos to his Facebook page comparing Gollum and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Now, a court has ordered a probe into the fictional character's character, according to Turkish news agency DHA. A finding that Gollum is offensive — which would mean Dr. Çiftçi insulted a public official by posting the meme — could send the doctor to prison for up to two years. Hicran Danisman, the lawyer representing Çiftçi, told the Associated Press that she decided to focus her defense on the argument that "Gollum is not a bad character," because the court did not seem receptive to a freedom of speech argument. The judge then ruled that a panel of experts, including a psychologist and pop culture expert, should conduct a review to determine whether that's true, Danisman said. The meme featured side-by-side images of Gollum and Erdogan, according to images circulating on social media.
"Insulting the president" is a crime punishable by several years behind bars, according to Turkey's penal code. Public insults and those published in the media can be subject to even harsher punishments. Erdogan's administration has been known to aggressively use that law to silence critics. At least 236 people were investigated for alleged insults between August 2014 and March 2015, according to a report in the BBC. More than 100 were indicted. Journalists have been hit especially hard by the laws. As the Committee to Protect Journalists has noted, the country was the world's top jailer of journalists in 2012.

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