Tarek Benbaba is a cartoonist from Rabat, Morocco who recently joined our community. He is the first cartoonist from Morocco to join Cartoon Movement; we talk to him about cartoons and censorship.
Are there many political cartoonists working in Morocco?
There are around thirty active cartoonists working in newspapers, but there are more who prefer voicing themselves through social networks and electronic media.
Are political cartoons considered an important part of the Moroccan media?
Every newspaper has a political cartoonist, so I guess political cartoons are quite important.
In February of this year, an 18 year old citizen in Morocco was condemned to a year in jail for posting a Damien Glez caricature of the king of Morocco, Mohamed VI, on Facebook.What is the role of censorship in Morroco, and how does it affect your work as a cartoonist (and other Moroccan cartoonists)?
Censorship is very strong in Morocco and every single cartoonist knows the red lines. Cartoonists do not dare express their opinions freely concerning many political issues that have to do with the king or the Sahara for example. This affects a cartoonist work if they want to express their opinion freely. Many cartoonists refuse to work for newspapers and look for other platforms, mainly social networks or local/international electronic media. The majority, however, chooses to stay away from troubles and never work on thorny issues. I have chosen to work as an illustrator and cartoonist in school books, flyers, brochures and kids magazines, because working in media is full of constraints. However, I use social network sites (like Facebook) and sites like Cartoon Movement to let my voice be heard.
Why did you start doing political cartoons?
I think expressing one's opinion about things happening around them is a human characteristic. How people express their opinions is what differs. Each one of us does it differently; some talk about it, some make movies and some draw cartoons like me. I think I have always felt that I want to give a statement about issues around me. Political cartoons are part of this feeling: by making cartoons I feel I am a positive person representing the truth from my own perspective. When people are exposed to the truth from different perspectives they can form a global view and get closer to what is happening more than if there is only one perspective of looking at things. And of course I need to make a living, so the best thing for me is to do a job I love.
What do you hope to achieve with your work?
My main objective is doing something I love. When I am honest in my job and deliver honest messages, I am helping people to see things more clearly. Cartoons also help me develop a sense of being critical and not take anything for granted. I hope to keep on drawing the truth as I see it.
How do you see the future of Morocco?
I do not think Morocco is going to change soon. There are only superficial changes.. There is an illusion of change, but in fact Morocco seems to be like a chained human being and there is a giant mosquito drinking its blood. Morocco seems to me doomed to remain like that.
What role can political cartoons and cartoonists play in shaping this future?
Political cartoons have no impact on Moroccan policies. They can help making people a bit more aware, though.