Earlier this week, Turkey demanded the removal of a photo from an exhibition in Switzerland.
The photo claims that Erdogan, who was Prime minister at the time, was directly involved in the murder of a teenager during anti-government protests in 2013.
The demand has been rejected.
The Vice Mayor Guillaume Barazzone told Swiss media: “Geneva will not allow any country to be influenced in this matter. Geneva and Switzerland stand for freedom of expression“
Place des Nations in front of the UN Office, where the exhibition is being staged, is a good example of this freedom as this is “where minorities must be able to express” their opinions, he added.
“Therefore the administrative council will support this exhibition and it is out of the question to remove this photograph.”
Demir Sönmez, a Swiss photographer of Kurdish and Armenian origin, said he is appalled by the Turkish reaction to his exhibition.
“Turkey’s reaction is unacceptable,” he told RT.
“Erdogan’s reaction is normal, because it’s Erdogan! He’s like a sultan in his own country. He’s begun to insult European journalists and European citizens,” Sönmez added.
The photographer said that as things stand, “there’s no tolerance for journalists, intellectuals, academics in Turkey.”
“There are currently 2,000 criminal cases opened in Turkey for having insulted the president. Turkey is the world’s largest prison for journalists. As many as 33 journalists are imprisoned there,” he told RT.
The scandal broke on Monday when Ankara demanded Switzerland remove a photo of Berkin Elvan, a boy who was fatally injured in June 2013 during mass demonstrations against then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan at Istanbul’s Gezi Park.
On June 16, 2013, Elvan left home to buy some bread, his family said. On the way back he was hit in the head with a tear gas canister that was fired by police during clashes with protesters.
The boy died in hospital at the age of 15 after spending 269 days in a coma. His mother, Gulsum Elvan, blamed his death on Erdogan, who praised the “legendary heroism” of police in anti-government rallies back in June 2013.
“My name is Berkin Elvan. The police killed me, on the order of Turkey’s prime minister,” says the caption under Sönmez’s photo of Elvan.
“Erdogan said that the 14-year-old boy is a terrorist. That’s unacceptable. He insulted the family of the boy by stating that [Turkish] police had gained a huge victory against terrorism,” Sönmez told RT.
The boy’s death sparked mass protests in Turkey; many of them resulted in violent clashes between demonstrators and police.
Turkey’s embassy in the Swiss capital Bern confirmed on Tuesday that they had been trying to “establish verbal contact with the Geneva city authorities” to inform them that Elvan’s photograph stirred certain “reactions” among Geneva-based Turkish non-governmental organizations.
This is not the first time Erdogan has tried to exercise influence over foreign media.