Cartoonists Rights Network International is gathering statements in support for Kenyan cartoonist Gado, who was fired last week from his 23-year position at the Daily Nation, most likely because of political pressure. Here is our official statement:
The dismissal of Kenyan cartoonist Gado from the Daily Nation, where he worked since 1992, is incomprehensible and indefensible. Gado is one of Africa’s most important cartoonist and therefore an asset of tremendous value to any media outlet that takes critical journalism seriously. The only explanation for his sacking seems to be political pressure from the outside. That such pressure has succeeded in ousting one of Kenya most prominent critical voices from the Daily Nation does not bode well for the future of free and independent journalism in Kenya.
From Jerome Starkey at The Times:
One of Africa’s most famous cartoonists has been sacked by Kenya’s biggest media group as fears grow that the country’s press is caving in to government suppression of free speech.
Godfrey Mwampembwa, better known by his pen name, Gado, had mocked countless presidents — and won legions of fans — during his career at the Daily Nation, which started in 1992. Colleagues have called him “Africa’s most important cartoonist,” but his drawings earned him powerful enemies as well.
In 2009 President Kenyatta, then the finance minister, tried to sue Gado over a cartoon pillorying him for a $100 million accounting error. In 2005 Gado outraged Muslims with a drawing of a woman suicide bomber asking: “I’m also going to get the 72 virgins... right?!”.
Gado was persuaded by his bosses to take a sabbatical last year after the Nation’s sister paper, The EastAfrican, was banned in Tanzania over a cartoon mocking President Kikwete. When he tried to return to work, Tom Mshindi, the editor-in-chief, said his contract would not be renewed.
Mr Mshindi denied that the decision was a reflection on the freedom of the press, which he said was “no better or no worse” than under Kenya’s previous government.
Gado said Mr Kenyatta and his deputy, William Ruto, had often put pressure on the paper’s management. “Freedom of the press is being rolled back and it’s dangerous,” he said. The Nation’s managing editor, Denis Galava, was sacked in January for an editorial attacking the government’s “almost criminal negligence”
Jonathan Shapiro, a South African cartoonist, said he feared the Nation’s owners were “kowtowing to pressure from the government”. He said: “Gado is the most important cartoonist in Africa. It’s appalling that after 23 years he has been shafted like that.”
40 NGO s and over 75 international cartoonists call for leniency for Iranian cartoonist wrongfully jailed.
A letter to Iranian President Rouhani by Cartoonists Rights Network International calls for leniency for Iranian cartoonist Atena Faraghdani, who is sentenced to 12 years in jail for a cartoon:
February 22, 2016
President Hassan Rouhani
Pasteur Street, Pasteur Square
Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran
Our organization, along with the undersigned organizations and individuals, are happy to learn that as a result of the new chapter of relations with the international community, your government was able to approve the release of a number of prisoners of conscience, including The Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian.
Building on this very positive action, we ask your excellency to start a conversation with the Judiciary to free cartoonist Atena Faraghdani who is now in prison for publishing on the Internet a symbolic cartoon. Atena has been sentenced to 12 years 9 months in prison, awaiting final verdict for the court of appeal.
The Islamic Republic of Iran is a party to various Articles within UN International Human Rights Conventions: including Article 19 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “The right to freedom of opinion and expression,” and Articles 19, 21 and 22 of the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights mandating “The right to express an opinion and freedom of expression” and “The right to freedom of association.”
Your excellency, you have pledged “support for the Freedom of Speech in Iran’s newspapers, magazines and websites,” and Foreign Minister Zarif also noted during a TV interview that “We do not jail people for their opinions.” Many Human Rights organizations and the UN believe that arresting, charging and sentencing Atena Farghadani for such activities contravenes the above-mentioned rights. It is also of concern to the international community that her continued imprisonment contravenes the spirit of a new era of international co-operation with Iran.
The United Nations, and other World Human Rights organizations, consider Atena Farghadani to be a prisoner of conscience, presently held for the peaceful exercise of her rights to freedom of expression and association. Being a party to the UN’s International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, we would hope you could see this too.
We hope that you are able to convince the Judiciary to reconsider her sentence on appeal, and set aside her conviction and sentence so allowing her to immediately return to her family.
The world looks on — hoping Iran will, in good faith, free Atena Farghadani in this era of international co-operation — and in so doing prove that Iran is indeed a supporter of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, along with other internationally accepted human rights, a vital condition and component within this new era of international co-operation that we are hopefully heading towards.
With best regards,
Dr. Robert Russell
Executive Director, Cartoonists Rights Network International
Friends of Cartoonists
Jean Schulz, Charles M. Schulz Museum, USA
Mehdi Amini, Afghanistan
Carol Lange, USA
Drew Rougier-Chapman, USA
Chris Bliss, MyBillofRights.com, USA
Will Durst, Durstco, USA
Mark McKinney, Miami University, USA
Carl Nelson, USA
Joan Mower, Voice of America, USA
Ambassador Cynthia Schneider, USA
Zeina Zahreddine, Canada
Brian Adcock, Guardian UK
Sahar Ajami, Norway
Nick Anderson, Houston Chronicle, USA
Terry Anderson, Scottish Cartoon Art Studio, Scotland
Gary Barker, UK
Xavier Bonilla/Bonil, Ecuador
Rupert Besley, UK
Steve Bright, The Sun, UK
Carlos Brito, Portugal
Steve Breen, San Diego Union Tribune, USA
Bernard Bouton, president Federation of Cartooning Organizations, France
Chris Cairns, Scotland
Daryl Cagle, USA
Patrick Chappatte, International New York Times
Kate Charlesworth, UK
Dave C. Cherry, USA
J.D. Crowe, Alabama Media Group, USA
Christian Daigle, Canada
Michael de Adder, Canada
Matt Davies, New York Newsday, USA
Andy Davey, UK
Vincent Deighan, (Frank Quitely) Scotland
Steven ‘Lectrr’ Degryse, De Standaard, Belgium
Sergii Fedko, Ukraine
Christian Fedele, Italy
Noel Ford, FRSA, UK
Scott Griffin, USA
Fadi Abou Hassan, Norway
Graham Harrop, Canada
David Horsey, Los Angeles Times, USA
Steve Jonesy, UK
Kal Kallaugher, The Economist, USA
Vladimir Kazanevsky, Ukraine
Nik Kowsar, Canada
Graeme MacKay, Hamilton Spectator, Canada
Lewis MacKenzie, Scotland
Bruce MacKinnon, Halifax Chronicle Herald, Canada
Ferran Martin, Catalonia, Spain
Josko Marusic, Croatia
Rick McKee, The Augusta Chronicle, USA
Kanika Mishra, India
Pedro Molina, Nicaragua
Greg Moodie, The National, Scotland
Terry Mosher/Aislin, Canada
Dan Murphy, Canada
Francis Odupute, Nigeria Observer, Nigeria
Jack Ohman, Sacramento Bee, USA
Geoff Olson, Canada
David Parkins, USA
Stephan Pastis, Pearls Before Swine, USA
Mike Peters, Mother Goose and Grimm, USA
Joel Pett, Lexington Herald-Leader, USA
Marlene Pohle, Argentina
Michael Ramirez, Investors Business Daily, USA
Hajo de Reijger, Netherlands
Rob Rogers, Pittsburgh Post Gazette, USA
David Rowe, Australia Financial Review
Martin Rowson, The Guardian, UK
Tjeerd Royaards, Cartoon Movement, Netherlands
Cristina Sampaio, Portugal
Miguel Villalba Sánchez “Elchicotriste”, Spain
Kevin Siers, Charlotte Observer, USA
Jen Sorensen, USA
Scott Stantis, Chicago Tribune, USA
Bill Stott, Chair, Professional Cartoonists’ Organization, UK
Manos Symeonakis, Cartoon Movement, Netherlands
Ann Telnaes, The Washington Post, USA
Adán Iglesias Toledo, Cuba
Tom Toles, The Washington Post, USA
Zach Trenholm, USA
Wes Tyrell, President of the Canadian Association of Ed Cartoonists
Shan Wells, Durango Telegraph, USA
Signe Wilkinson, Philly Daily News and Philadelphia Inquirer, USA
Karl Wimer, USA
Matt Wuerker, POLITICO, USA
Adam Zyglis, Buffalo News, USA
International Non-Governmental Organizations
ActiveWatch – Media Monitoring Agency
Arabic Network for Human Rights Information
Association for Civil Rights
Belarusian Association of Journalists
Brazilian Association for Investigative Journalism
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression
Center for Independent Journalism – Romania
Committee to Protect Journalists
Gulf Centre for Human Rights
Human Rights Network for Journalists – Uganda
International Federation of Journalists
Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance
Media Foundation for West Africa
National Union of Somali Journalists
Observatorio Latinoamericano para la Libertad de Expresión – OLA
Pakistan Press Foundation
PEN American Center
Reporters Sans Frontières, France
Social Media Exchange – SMEX
South East European Network for Professionalization of Media
Vigilance pour la Démocratie et l’État Civique
World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers
Centre Québécois du PEN international
Kurdish PEN Centre
San Miguel (Mexico) Centre of PEN International
PEN International Women Writers Committee
PEN South Africa
Swedish PEN Centre
Akram Raslan is a Syrian cartoonist who was arrested by Syrian security forces in 2012. No one has heard from him since, and he has very likely died from torture.
We have set up an honorary account to feature some of Akram’s amazing work and to remind ourselves of the courage of cartoonists that continue to question and defy authority, even in the face of lethal danger.
A cartoon in support of Ted Rall by South African cartoonist John Curtis (@digitaljungle)
The Association of American Editorial Cartoonists (AAEC) is calling for an independent investigation of an audiotape that’s at the heart of a conflict between US cartoonist Ted Rall (who has done a comic for us in the past) and the LA Times.
In short, the conflict is this: Ted, a freelance writer and cartoonist for the LA Times, wrote a blog in May describing a ‘rough’ encounter with an officer the LAPD in 2001. One month after publication, the LAPD provided an audiotape of the incident which they claimed contradicted Ted’s account. Based on the tape, the LA Times decided to fire Ted as well as publicly call him out on the supposed factual inconsistencies.
But that wasn’t the end of it. In response to the allegations, Ted has had the audiotape (the quality of which was rather bad) enhanced by professionals. The enhanced version backs up his story, he says.
This is a really short recap of the story. This article at A New Domain has some of the most recent developments, and at the bottom you'll find links to various articles that go into the case in detail.
It’s difficult to accurately gauge the story following it from the other side of the pond, but what does strike us as odd is the reluctance of the LA times to respond in detail to the enhanced audiotape and what it contains. When you call a journalist and cartoonist a liar (as they have basically done), you should be willing to investigate when new evidence presents itself. Because at the moment, Ted’s claim that it was the influence of the LAPD that got him fired (he’s done a lot of cartoons that were highly critical of the police) seems plausible.
In any case, an impartial and independent investigation does seem to be in order. We will continue to follow the story (from afar) with interest.
Last week, I was fortunate enough to attend the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, South Africa, the biggest art festival in Africa. I was there by invitation of the Embassy of the Netherlands in South Africa, a co-sponsor of Think!fest, a series of lectures at the festival. The theme this year, with the attack on Charlie Hebdo in mind, was satire. As part of our international Peace & Justice project, I joined forces with one of South Africa’s best cartoonists, Jeremy Nell (also known as Jerm), to talk about the importance of satire.
In preparing our talk, Jeremy and I decided that we would like to focus on the limits of satire. We wanted to reflect on the use and misuse of stereotypes in cartoons, the way cartoons can fight but can also reinforce prejudice, and explore what is taboo in South African and Dutch society.
In South Africa, cartoonists have to tread very carefully when they deal with race and religion. And while Jeremy thinks that a cartoonists should be able to poke fun at anyone, mocking Nelson Mandela is a no-go. Jeremy is probably the most hard-hitting cartoonist publishing in South Africa. He consistently pushes the boundaries of what you can mock. He’s also known to use stereotypes in his work, and sometimes this gets him into trouble. But controversy does not always come from where you expect it.
The cartoon above featuring the big five, with the rhinoceros replaced by an Asian carrying a stack of rhino horns, was published throughout South Africa and in the US without any angry response. Then, when it was entered into a competition in Germany, it was rejected in the final round on the grounds of being racist. When Jeremy was told the stereotype of the Asian was crossing the line, he simply replied: 'How did you know it was an Asian?’ Because although stereotypes can reinforce existing prejudices, they are also an important tool for cartoonists, who rely on a collective visual language to connect their work with the audience.
Here is some more work by Jeremy that was considered controversial in some way or another:
Dutch society is also no stranger to taboo. Dutch anti-Islam cartoonist Gregorius Nekschot was apprehended by the authorities in 2008 for allegedly spreading hatred with his very provocative cartoons on Islam in what many still consider to be a political arrest. Another big taboo in the Netherlands is anything related to Hitler or the Holocaust. Comparing anyone to Hitler will virtually always cause a big controversy.
Geert Wilders is perhaps the most (in)famous Dutch politician. He is vehemently anti-Islam and his proposed measures to combat what he calls the ‘Islamization of Europe’, such as a tax on the head veil that Muslim women wear, do invite social satirists to compare him to a certain German politician that targeted a particular part of the population. Wilders has gotten so annoyed by being compared to Hitler, he came out last year with the statement that he would sue anyone who would make this comparison. This statement was, of course, great material for cartoonists. But how to approach the subject without actually getting sued? Below is an explanation of a cartoon I did on the matter, that did make a Hitler reference, but did not actually get me into trouble:
But another cartoon did get me into trouble. Last year, I was asked to make a cartoon about Islamic State for Boomerang, a company that provides free postcards that are distributed to bars, cinemas, theatres and restaurants in the Netherlands. I decided to make a cartoon that would not focus on IS exclusively, but was a critique of religion in general. As I mentioned earlier, controversy often comes from where you least expect it. I this case, it wasn’t angry Muslims rallying against the cartoon. Instead, Christians were outraged that their religion was being compared to IS.
So how does all of the above relate to our cartoon project on peace and justice? It seems counterintuitive, but insulting and provocative cartoons do actually have a role to play when it comes to creating a peaceful and just society. Because we can only create a fair society if we are allowed to debate what we consider to be the wrongs of that society. And sometimes you need a bit of controversy to make people think about issues that would be ignored otherwise. And as cartoonists, creating controversy is part of our job description.
By Tjeerd Royaards
All images © Jerm & Tjeerd
Thoughts on FECO - by Tjeerd Royaards
FECO or the Federation of Cartoonists Organisations was founded 1983 in by three cartoonists from the Netherlands, Belgium and Great Britain. According to their website, they now have chapters in over 30 countries. The goals of FECO are to provide information on cartoon contests around the world, to safeguard author's rights and freedom of opinion, and to support cartoonists who have been victimized for political or professional reasons (this last goal is listed on the website, although not every board member agrees this should be part of the mission of FECO).
FECO is one of the major players in the field of cartooning. But it is not uncontroversial. One critic is Iranian cartoonist Kianoush Ramezani, who has fled Iran because of his work. He has been living in exile in France since 2010. He is highly critical of FECO's activities in Iran, in particular the fact that FECO cooperates with the Iranian House of Cartoon and the Tabriz Cartoon Association (until quite recently the official representative of FECO in Iran - according to FECO they did not pay their contribution, so they no longer have this role). Ramezani: 'The world knows these two organizations are part of the propaganda of the Islamic State of Iran. They are directly responsible for the exile of numerous Iranian cartoonists, for repression and torture. The world knows all cartooning events are managed by them with an enormous budget of the regime.'
In an open letter to FECO, Ramezani calls upon the organization to stop its cooperation with the Iran House of Cartoon and the Tabriz Cartoon Association. Several board members of FECO have responded this his letter.
French cartoonist Brito mentions the many the talented cartoonists in Iran: 'I consider it our duty not to close doors and windows of the world to cartoonists from Iran. And I think that, perhaps, one of the possible ways to do that is to participate in Iranian contests. Personally, I never participated in any Iranian contest and that I don’t intend to do so, but I defend the right of any cartoonist to do this. If we boycott Iran, why not boycott Russia, China, Cuba, the United States of America or Israel?'
Dutch artist and one of the founders of FECO, Peter Nieuwendijk, writes the following in a personal statement in response to Ramezani's letter: 'We are NOT Amnesty International. We are NOT Cartoonists Rights Network International. We are no politicians, we are no judges, we do not condemn. We are cartoonists. We draw about problems; we make people think and laugh, help them to decide, so they can form their own conclusions.'
Judge and Condemn
As editor of a cartoon platform that also has the mission to stand up for freedom of expression and to support cartoonists in trouble, and as an editorial cartoonist myself, I can't help but agree with some of the points raised by Kianoush Ramezani.
In February, we wrote about the Holocaust Cartoon Competition organized by the House of Cartoon in Iran. We noted that the competition was 'politically motivated, politically funded, and politically controlled by the Iranian government.' This competition is not looking for independent cartoons, but for images that will support the politics of Iran.
Brito raises a fair point when he asks why we should boycott Iran and not other countries. But to me, the delineator is quite clear. Yes, I disagree with many of the policies of the US and Israel, but any competition taking place in these countries will be independent of the state. I can make a hard-hitting caricature of Obama or Netanyahu and send it in for a competition in these countries. I could of course also send a caricature of Rouhani or Khamenei to an Iranian cartoon competition, but I doubt it would be published, let alone selected as prize-winner. US cartoonist Daryl Cagle made a great protest cartoon which he entered into the Holocaust Competition. I doubt we will see it on Irancartoon.com.
Brito goes on to note that in some countries censorship can be insidious, less visible than in Iran but no less damaging. Althoug this is undoubtedly true, we have to draw a line somewhere. And I think putting an end to cooperation with openly state-sponsored cartoon institutions of authoritarian regimes is a good place to start.
Ramezani points out that boycotting these two organizations would not mean a total boycott of cartoonists in Iran. He argues that FECO should connect with independent Iranian cartoonists.
To me, the core of cartooning is independence, and its foundation is freedom of expression. In a world where truth is often in the eye of the beholder, these two values should be paramount to cartoonists and the organizations that represent them. Contrary to what Mr. Nieuwendijk believes, I do feel it's our duty to judge and condemn those who threaten our freedom to draw what we want, and those who would use cartoons for propaganda and political purposes. I wholeheartedly agree that we should not lose touch with the cartoonists in Iran, but I do not believe that working with regime-sponsored institutions to that end is a constructive way to do that. We should find a way to connect with independent Iranian cartoonists, however difficult that may be.
I'd be very interested to hear what other cartoonists (and people interested in cartoons) think about this. Feel free to share your point of view in the comment section below.
Update: Just before publication of this post, Daryl Cagle mentioned new developments on his Facebook page. He states Bernard Bouton, secretary-general of FECO (and also a member of the Cartoon Movement community) has resigned from FECO. In recent days, Bouton has been criticized for participating in the Holocaust Competition. According to Cagle, ‘the French cartoonists, the largest part of FECO, are calling for new elections to replace the FECO board and to disassociate FECO from Iran's infamous ‘House of Cartoons’. We will continue to follow the story, and will report any new developments.
Cartoon by Kianoush.
Cartoon Movement is partnering with Le Mémorial de Caen to organize the 5th International Meeting of Press Cartoonists. In February, it looked as though the meeting might not happen this year. Security risks forced the Memorial to rethink the event. Last month, we traveled to Caen to discuss a new date and this year’s programme together with the Memorial.
The date and theme of this year’s meeting were revealed at a press conference in Caen last Wednesday. The 5th meeting will take place on 11, 12, and 13 September. The overarching theme will be the consequences for cartoonists of the 7th of January, when Charlie Hebdo was attacked. September 11 was chosen as a symbolic starting date, because the 7th of January can in some ways be seen as the 9/11 of cartoonists. On that day, it became irrevocably clear what power simple lines on paper can possess, and what consequences they can have for the people who draw these lines.
Stéphane Grimaldi, director of the Memorial, Joël Bruneau, the mayor of Caen, and cartoonists Kianoush, Chaunu and Tjeerd Royaards present the program of the 5th cartoonists’ meeting. Image courtesy of Liberté Bonhomme.
The attack on Charlie Hebdo forces cartoonists to rethink their profession and their role in society. To do this, we will bring together 40 cartoonist from all over the globe. And instead of having everybody draw the most offensive cartoon of Mohammed, we’re looking to start a conversation. About whether there are limits to freedom of expression or not. And if the right to insult is essential to cartooning.
Here are the subjects that we will be talking about:
-Does freedom of speech have limits?
-How has cartooning changed since January 7?
-The business side: making a living with cartoons
-Editorial cartoon throughout history.
-Are cartoons a universal language?
-What is a good cartoon?
-Editorial cartoon in school: educational uses, experiences
-Are cartoonists journalists?
The continued threat to cartoonists has forced us to rethink the organization of this year’s event. All activities will take place at the Memorial. The list of attending cartoonists will be made public in the week before the event, not before. And people who are interested in attending will have to register via the website of the Memorial.
Although we sincerely regret that these security measures are necessary, we feel it’s important to keep the conversation on freedom of expression going.
Registration for the event will be possible on the website of the Memorial from the 1st of June.
Arwa Moukbel is a young cartoonist that recently joined our community. She’s from Yemen, not a place where you’d expect to find (female) cartoonists. All the more reason to ask her a few questions.
Why and when did you start making cartoons?
I always saw the daily cartoons in the local newspapers, and I was a big fan of the drawings of Naji Al-Ali. I started drawing cartoons in school, mostly about the Palestinian cause. I knew the bigger newspapers imposed restrictions on what you were allowed to draw, but at the time I hoped to find a small newspaper or website that might be interested in my work.
For a long time, I settled for making cartoons with any place to publish them. Since 8 months, I have a Facebook page.
What are the red lines (subjects you cannot draw about?
A red line in the past was to criticize the system of Ali Saleh and staff. Now, I believe, the biggest red line is criticism of the Saudi regime. My family is afraid, so they prevented me from publishing some of my cartoons that talked about Saudi Arabia 's policy towards Yemen.
But now I am very happy to joined Cartoon Movement. It gives me the chance to publish my work, a chance I do not have here in Yemen, being almost the only female cartoonist.
The relationship between Saudi Arabia and Yemen - © Arwa Moukbel