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Haiti Project: Update 6

Our third week in Haiti, and a lot to tell.

Yesterday we visited one of the biggest tent camps in Port-au-Prince. Sprawling on a hillside, the camp is so big that it's divided between two city parts, Delmas and Bourdon. Although the conditions people in the camp have to live in are far from ideal (and unimaginable for most of us from more fortunate parts in the world), the camp has seen a lot of improvement since its ad hoc creation right after the earthquake. Most of the tents are well-constructed, there is a market area for people to get their groceries, a sanitation area, solar powered street lighting and rubbish bins. There are broad roads throughout the camp, and canals lined with concrete-filled sandbags to channel the excess water out of the camp. A primary school and a church can be found on the premises.


These are all good things designed to make life better and easier for those Haitians forced to live in a camp. They are, however, also painful reminders of the permanency of the camps. With each new improvement, tent camp residents realize the camps are here to stay, indefinitely. Again, it's the lack of government that prevents a structural solution that would bring an end to the tent camps. According to the residents, there has never been any government official (no matter how low) in the camp to take a look at the situation. All of the improvements have been done by NGOs; these organizations do what they can to make life in the camps better, but it is not their task or mandate to provide a solution.

Life in the tent camps and their future will play a central role in the comic that we're lining up, and will most likely result in a number of cartoons by Matt and Tjeerd.

Highlight of the week was our visit to Philippe Dodard. Philippe is not only a renowned Haitian painter, he is also the godfather of Haitian editorial cartooning. He was the first cartoonist for Le Nouvelliste, starting there in the mid-1980s. He is most famous for his full-page cartoons that were published annually on the cover of Le Nouvelliste as a recap of the most important Haitian news of that year. Although he doesn't do political cartoons anymore, there's a good chance he'll come out of retirement to do one of his full-page cartoons for Cartoon Movement, which we will run in the week leading up to the publication of the first chapter of the comic on January 12, 2012.

                                                  Cover cartoon for the year 1995/1996Blogpic3
Another 'highlight' was a six-hour (!) visit by Martha Stewart and Macy's CEO Terry Lundgren to have a photo op with Haitian artisans, whose products are on sale at Macy's. The fact that they buy the products of a small group of Haitian artists is great, but you have to wonder how meaningful this is, given that their trip wasn't even long enough to have dinner in Haiti. According to their press release, the impact of what they do is huge. Apparently, there is a Creole saying 'Art feeds millions' (or so they say in the press release). We have yet to find a Haitian that's familiar with this proverb...and we've asked a few.

                                        Matt meets Martha  Blogpic4
Cartoonists are known for their cynicism. It's hard for us to see a less-than-a-day visit by celebrities in a positive light. Another group we have trouble with regarding in a positive way are the missionaries which are plentiful in Haiti. They're mostly Americans, and often accompanied by groups of youngsters in search of a 'life-changing experience', here to convert the natives.

The missionary - Tjeerd RoyaardsBlogpic2

That's it for now. Only a few days left. Our final update will be on Monday or Tuesday, so stay tuned.

In Defense of Embedding

Two comic journalists, David Axe and Ted Rall, have both reported from Afghanistan multiple times–and in very different ways. Axe embeds with the military, while Rall travels on his own, studiously avoiding them. Cartoon Movement has published two opposing columns by the authors on the practice of embedded reporting. Rall's column was published Monday.


By David Axe

In a storm of dust and noise, the blue-painted helicopter belonging to an anonymous military contractor settled onto the playground-size landing zone of a U.S. Amy outpost in eastern Afghanistan, just a few miles from the border with Pakistan. I tumbled onto the loose gravel and, bowed under the weight of my backpack, body armor and cameras, lurched toward a beckoning sergeant. The Taliban had kept this outpost, just outside the town of Margah in eastern Paktika province, under steady rocket bombardment. We had to get under cover.

It was the first of 10 days that I, a reporter for Wired, C-SPAN and Voice of America, would spend living with the platoon of Army paratroopers occupying the Margah outpost. The troopers planned, trained, killed time, patrolled around the outpost and, twice during my stay, set out on long missions into the mountains, where they immediately came under attack. I was there for everything, cameras rolling, notepad quickly filling up, dodging bullets and rockets just like the soldiers did.

In quieter moments, the young paratroopers recalled an incident in October when as many as 300 Taliban attacked in the middle of the night, nearly overrunning the base. The Americans fought heroically -- and as luck would have it, all survived. When the sun rose, 92 dead Taliban littered the field. One kid named Timothy James held back tears as he described the experience. "I'm just glad to be alive," he said. His 19-year-old face was, for a moment, a perfect snapshot of the traumas of the decade-old Afghanistan war.

The reporting I did in my time in Margah was some of the best of my so-far seven-year career as a war correspondent. And it was work I could not have done without the support of the U.S. military. The Army provided all my transportation, lodging and protection in a remote, lethal environment. Technically, it was an "embed" -- an arrangement that some critics have characterized as reporters cozying up to the military, or the military "buying" favorable coverage.

But to me, the category is incidental, and the criticism often off-base.

Axe For one, embedding is not new. What we now call an "embed" is, in fact, an old way of reporting on war. Ernie Pyle did it in World War II; he even wore a uniform. In Vietnam, Larry Burrows shot some of the most moving, and important, images of the war while living and traveling with American troops. Both men hated war. Both died in combat. I've faced mortal danger on many occasions while embedded; living inside a military unit does not necessarily make a reporter safer.
Embedding is not unique to the U.S. military or even to full-scale war. I've worked in conflict zones across the world, from Somalia, to Congo and Iraq. The logistics of traveling to these countries can be daunting. My personal security is often tenuous. To make it work, I've sometimes accompanied organizations accustomed to and equipped for operating in difficult environments; often, these organizations are also my subjects.

In Somalia in 2007, I lived in a hotel but enjoyed security courtesy of some off-duty government soldiers (whom I paid) and patrolled with Ugandan peacekeepers. In Congo, I lived and traveled with the U.N. In Iraq, I was sometimes alone; other times, I tagged along with: British and U.S. diplomats; British, American, Dutch, Australian and Iraqi soldiers; Kurdish elders and members of their Peshmerga militia.

In every case, I made it clear that the organizations would not be permitted to censor my reporting. In only one case did anyone -- the British Army -- even attempt to do so, and they relented after I complained loudly. My stories have often been highly critical of the armies, agencies and nonprofit groups that helped facilitate my coverage. My reporting from Margah clearly reflected my personal conviction that James and the other Americans on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border are out-numbered, in serious danger and fighting an unnecessary war that they cannot win.

An embedded reporter is not automatically a propagandist. Now, critics of embedding might say that it's not necessary for an organization to practice outright censorship in order to influence the stories an embedded reporter produces. That's true: there are more subtle means of influence. Namely, a journalist might be reluctant to publish negative news about people he has grown to like on a personal level. But that kind of favoritism is not an exclusive product of embedding. Rather, it's the result of bad journalism -- and can happen whenever a reporter and his source spend more than 30 seconds talking to each other. That is to say, every time.  

Honestly, the only valid criticism of embedded reporters also applies to those who never live inside an organization they are also writing about. Bad journalists produce bad journalism, regardless of the details of their access and logistics.

Moreover, I'm at a loss for how one might report on war from the perspective of the combatants, without accompanying the combatants. Granted, for Western reporters, that usually means traveling with U.S. and allied forces, though English-speaking reporters have succeeded in embedding with the Taliban and other "enemy" extremist groups -- albeit rarely, as these groups are usually more interested in killing reporters than showing them around.

Perhaps what the critics of embeds are really trying to say is that they want to read more reports about war that don't portray the conflict from the perspective of American soldiers. That's a perfectly valid point. But as long as Americans and their allies are fighting, someone needs to tell stories about these soldiers. To do that, you have to go where the soldiers are, get close and stay there long enough to understand them, their motives, their successes and their failures. If you want to call that an "embed," fine. But don't call it wrong. It's just journalism.

David Axe is a freelance war correspondent and a regular contributor to Wired, C-SPAN and Voice of America. He is the author of the graphic novel War Is Boring. David blogs at

Last Of The Independents

Two comic journalists, David Axe and Ted Rall, have both reported from Afghanistan multiple times–and in very different ways. Axe embeds with the military, while Rall travels on his own, studiously avoiding them. Today Cartoon Movement publishes the first of two opposing columns by the authors on the practice of embedded reporting, with David Axe's following on Wednesday.

By Ted Rall

It was the early '80s. The USSR had recently invaded Afghanistan and the British journalist Robert Fisk was there to cover the occupation.

After he heard about fighting north of Kabul Fisk asked the Soviet authorities for permission to travel to the battle zone. They said no. He went anyway.

Russian troops arrested him and headed back to Kabul. On the way they were ambushed by mujahideen. The situation became desperate. A Soviet officer pushed a gun into Fisk's hands. Faced with a choice between journalistic objectivity and a hail of bullets, Fisk did what anyone would do: he took the gun and started firing. It's not like the Afghans were asking to see press credentials.

In simpler times, we would say that Fisk had been morally compromised. In the parlance of 21st century war correspondency, he had been "embedded."

Rolled out by the Pentagon in time for the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the "embedding" of American reporters into U.S. combat units in Iraq and Afghanistan has already become the standard way for print and broadcast reporters to cover the wars.

"Independent" reporting--traveling on your own, relying on your wits and local contacts as you come across them--is now virtually unheard of. Mainly, this is because reporting from war zones is expensive. Most journalists need to be sponsored by a major media organization; these outfits employ lawyers dedicated to limiting legal exposure. These attorneys think it's safer for reporters to travel as embeds.

They are mistaken. Not only does embedding make for terrible reporting, it is dangerous--not just for embeds, who come under fire at the same time as the soldiers with whom they travel and are widely perceived as shills for a brutal occupation, but for independents like me.

Here's how embedding works: Before joining "their" battalions, reporters sign contracts agreeing to subject their dispatches to military censorship.

About 600 reporters covered Iraq as embeds in 2003. Journos on the scene guesstimated that only 50 to 70 saw any interesting combat. Many were assigned to units that never deployed.

Ironically, independent reporters were blocked from picking up the slack. "One troubling side effect of the program was that it created a credentialing system among reporters: The embedded were considered official journalists, to whom the military would generally talk, and the 'unilaterals' were often treated as pests with no right to the battlefield," Jack Shafer wrote for Slate in May 2003. "In many instances, the military prevented unilaterals from covering the war."

The prevalence of embedding means that citizens of U.S.-occupied Iraq and Afghanistan rarely get to talk to American reporters. At most they catch a fleeting glimpse of them buried in body armor, huddled with U.S. and NATO forces as they zoom past in troop convoys.

Editors, oblivious in climatized corporate offices, are happy.

"From what a blinding sandstorm feels like to reporting how one of our embeds broke his unit's coffee pot, we're giving readers a better sense of the field," Susan Stevenson of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution fawned in 2003. But the embeds can't show something infinitely more important: how U.S. occupation looks like to the people on the ground, the Iraqis and Afghans it affects. Why are local people angry? American media consumers have no way to find out. They'll be shocked by the next 9/11.

Rall I spent late summer last year traveling independently through Afghanistan with fellow cartoonists Steven Cloud and Matt Bors. Odd birds who didn't fit into the embedded reporter narrative, we were repeatedly stopped and questioned by Afghan national police who had never encountered a "unilateral" reporter in ten years of war between the U.S. and the Taliban.

When we met Talibs and their sympathizers we had to work hard and talk fast in order to convince them that we were not propaganda tools of the U.S. and the Karzai puppet government. All reporters are perceived as stooges because of the embedding program.

"Frankly, our job is to win the war," Marine Colonel Rick Long commented in 2003."Part of that is information warfare. So we are going to attempt to dominate the information environment," he said.

It's working.

"Just because the military ended up liking the embed program--General Tommy Franks told Fox News that he was 'a fan'--doesn't mean the program was bad," reasoned Shafer.

"There's nothing wrong with having respect in our hearts for the men and women who are fighting this war," said Bob Steele of the Poynter Institute.

My BS detector disagrees.

Reporters should strive for the impossible: objectivity. When covering a war it is not enough for them to be journalists first, Americans second. They must be journalists, pure and simple. Reporters can't even pretend to search for objective truth when they rely on "their" combat units to protect them, grant them access to stories and transmit them to their organizations.

Because of embedding, the war reporting we get in U.S. newspapers and broadcast outlets is obsessed with the experience of American soldiers. Meanwhile, the stories of civilians and "enemy" fighters go untold. The Taliban are right: American war journalism has been reduced to rank propaganda.

A 2006 Penn State study looked at 742 print news stories filed from the 2003 Iraq invasion for 67 outlets, including the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, Chicago Tribune, Reuters, and the Associated Press. Researchers found that 93 percent of stories filed by embedded reporters relied on U.S. soldiers as their primary source. The number was 43 percent for independent reporters.

Conversely, independent reporters were much more likely to rely cover Iraqis: 73 percent versus 43 percent.

Not surprisingly, newspaper editors preferred the stories about American troops. Seventy-one percent of stories that appeared in print were written by embeds.

"The majority of war coverage in the study heavily emphasized the soldiers' experiences of the war while downplaying the effects of the invasion on the Iraqi people," said Andrew Lindner, a graduate student in sociology at Penn State.

Any media organization worthy of the name should pull its reporters out of the embedding program and into real life.

Ted Rall is the author of The Anti-American Manifesto. His website is

Photo courtesy of the author.

Haiti Project: Update 5

Although the headlines are dominated by the shooting in Norway, the drought in Africa and the debt of the United States (not to mention the death of Amy Winehouse), we still want to give an update from the country ranked number 5 on the 2011 Failed State Index.

We've now been here for a little over two weeks, and have one-and-a-half week left before we head back home. The impressions of misery and poverty are vividly present every day, but seeing past the squalor you can sometimes get a glimpse of something else. The lush tropical vegetation, the spirit of the Haitian people and the gaily painted buses and pick-ups that are used for public transport make you think that Haiti could be paradise. It's not. To quote a resident of one of the larger tent camps we visited,  it's 'hell on earth'.

The Catholic faith is a strong force in Haitian society, evident in the religious texts that decorate nearly every car and many walls. For non-believers it can be hard to comprehend that faith is sustained in the face of overwhelming misery without hope of reprieve, but it could be a sign of the resilience and strength of the people living here, and the need to keep hope alive. However, this faith has a dark side.


Many Catholic Haitians see the earthquake as a punishment from god, for all the sins that mankind commits. In practice, this means that the earth quake has been blamed on the people in Haiti that were perceived to be living in sin, namely the gay community. Last week we visited SEROvie, one of the few organizations for the lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgender people (LGBT) in Haiti.  Being gay in Haiti has never been easy, and the earthquake severely aggravated an already bad situation. Right after the quake, people started openly blaming gay people for the disaster, often with violence. Priests spurred the population on, in sermons given in church or on the radio.

 Thank you, God - Tjeerd RoyaardsMerci

More on the LGBT community will follow. Matt and Caroline are collaborating on a project on the LGBT community and how their situation has been affected by the earthquake. The project will be a crossover between comics and video, and will run on Cartoon Movement when it's done.

We are making good progress with our main project, producing Haitian comics journalism. We have officially hired Chevelin Pierre as the artist for the project. Chevelin is without a doubt the best comic artist working in Haiti today. The final comic will be 75 pages in color. The script will be written by Haitian journalists, who will use the next two months to delve into several issues that are at the heart of the many challenges that continue to face Haiti.

In the coming week we will talk to and interview yet more people, and have several meetings with the journalists to hash out exactly which subjects will be chosen to fill the 75 pages of Haitian comics journalism.

Haiti Project: Update 4

Time for another update from Haiti. We have been making long days this week, getting our comics journalism project set up, and doing interviews with editors, cartoonists and journalists to get a feel for the Haitian media. Long days traveling up and down Port-au-Prince means we have less time to write extensive blogposts, so we've put together a slideshow of photos to give an impression of what we're up to.

A note on the photos we make: we try to keep most of the things we post within the context of our project, as we don't want to just randomly post images of the destruction and abject poverty that is present throughout Haiti. That said, the devastation that we encounter here every day makes such an impression that we do feel the need to share some of what we see.


Boompage Today we publish "Boom!" by David Axe and Ryan Alexander-Tanner, a first hand account of an IED attack Axe was in while embedded with the US Military in Afghanistan earlier this year.

Easy to produce, IEDs have become the weapon of choice for an insurgency fighting the world's most powerful and technologically advanced army. Since 2002, they have been credited with killing half of the 1,500 American soldiers who have lost their lives in Afghanistan. The shockwave can also do permanent damage to the brain, resulting in memory loss and personality changes for countless survivors.

Axe's story also illustrates the dangers of traveling with the military while in a combat zone–journalists risk being caught in attacks and ultimately rely on the soldiers they are covering for safety.

Next weeek we will publish two opposing opinion columns on the practice of embedding with the military from David Axe and Ted Rall, two comic journalists who have reported from Afghanistan in very different ways.

Interview: Doaa Eladl

Doaa Doaa Eladl is the most visible female cartoonist in Egypt. Drawing for the daily newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm, she works alongside four male cartoonists. Freed from the censorship of the past, she's become a strong voice in a post-revolutionary country.

I met Doaa at the end of a three week visit to the U.S., sponsored by the State Department, where she traveled with a group of Middle Eastern cartoonists as the only woman. We first met in Portland, then a few days later in St. Petersburg, Florida, where the annual AAEC convention was held. I interviewed her on Saturday, July 9 , the day before she was set to return home. We spoke through an interpreter.

Matt Bors: When we met  in Portland, you mentioned that during the revolution the presses were stopped, so you went out in the streets and distributed your cartoons by hand. Can you retell that story?

Doaa Eladl: I didn't do anything extraordinary during the revolution. I was just like any other Egyptian citizen: I went and protested. Some of them lost an eye or had other injuries. I am always encouraging people to go and demonstrate and protest in the streets so on the 25th of January I thought it was time for me to participate in the revolution. However, I didn't do any heroic acts. Some other people sacrificed a lot and lost their lives.

I drew some cartoons and took them, along with some that were drawn by my colleagues, and printed them out and distributed them in Tahrir Square. Most of the Egyptian people couldn't see them because at that time they didn't allow us to print or publish anything and the internet was shut down. I have another colleague, a journalist, they went to the square to shoot video clips about what was happening and they had their legs broken. So I think they are more heroic than me.

Bors: Yeah, well, I was just gonna say that even though you may not think what you did was heroic, that we were all watching and everybody thought that Egyptians were very brave.

Eladl: The Egyptian people, they didn’t have anything to be afraid of, nothing left that could be taken from them. Those Egyptians, they did not have a job, they did not have any money. Especially the youth. There was no other option. They did not have anything more they thought they could lose. So they went to the streets.

Bors: The revolution is still going on, really. Egyptians are still occupying Tahrir Square to pressure the interim government to implement their demands. What are the changes you would like to see come from this? I'm thinking specifically of media reforms.

Picture-2 Eladl: I don’t think the change has reached the media yet since some media outlets still serve the cronies of the previous government, especially Al Muher Channel, which was owned by a member of National Party, the ex-government party. Some people are really furious over the actions of this channel because it instigates people–they are not representing the real goals of the revolution.

Bors: You mentioned to me before, under Mubarak, you could not draw him, or you would draw only an authority figure to represent the president, not Mubarak specifically.

Eladl: We had been informed there was a red line and we should not cross it. I did a few, limited illustrations of Mubarak. We would criticize Mubarak by using symbols, like a crown, and he would be wearing a crown and dressed like a king.

Bors: Did your editors ever lean on you to change something before it was published or cancel a cartoon?

Eladl: If they asked me, I would never change any work. If an illustration or a sketch was not approved, I would cancel it and start a new one. It never happened a lot where they would cancel my illustration and ask for a new one. Only a few times.

Bors: You do 5 cartoons a week for a newspaper. Do you go into the office or do you work from home?

Eladl: When I started, it was a mess to do all the work from the office, but after that they started to understand that cartooning is a different kind of profession. We can do the work from other places and now I usually send it by email.

Bors: There were numerous cartoonists working for state newspapers who supported Mubarak, no? Are they still around?

Eladl: They changed and are now pro-revolution. They are like Transformers from the movie. They are trying to be part of the wave, but the Egyptian people are smart and understand what they are up to.

Bors: One of our Egyptian cartoonists, Sherif Arafa, brought an amusing issue to my attention with one of his cartoons portraying Colonel Sanders of KFC as a Ché revolutionary. Mubarak said KFC was handing out free meals to get people to protest? Apparently since they are an American company the idea was they were working with the CIA or something?

Eladl: Yes, and Israel. I never ate at KFC because I saw it as an American company and I didn't want to support it, but after Mubarak denounced it as helping the revolution, we all figured why not eat there?

Bors: This is your first time in the Unites States, and you leave tomorrow to head back home. What are your impressions of America and Americans from your last three weeks?

Eladl: During my presentation [to the AAEC], I tackled some topics that criticize Americans and I know there is a difference between the American people and the foreign policy, but what really frustrates me is the carelessness of Americans. They really don’t, you know, care about others outside the country. They don’t know what’s going on in the other parts of the world. They do not care about their countrymen who die on a daily basis in Iraq and Afghanistan. They didn’t learn from Vietnam.

Bors: We're here at the AAEC convention in Florida. It's a low turnout this year, but probably the most editorial cartoonists you have ever met in one place. What is your impression of American editorial cartooning?

Eladl: I met two kinds of editorial cartoonists. Some of them, they deal with local and domestic issues and they never focus on U.S. foreign policy. One of them is Tom Toles, and I feel like he is not serving the people. And the others deal with international issues and understand the oppression and the suffering caused to other nations. One of them is Kal in The Economist. Really, I've started to change my mind and, you know what? I am going to be an international cartoonist. On the professional level, I was really impressed with Callahan's work--he talks about serious issues. I was so excited to meet such an iconic figure. The one lady, Jen [Sorensen], I felt like she deals more with international issues.

Bors: Yeah, Jen's good stuff. How many female editorial cartoonists would you say there are in Egypt?

Eladl: There are two others, but they are only starting out. I don't want to say they are professionals because they only started in this field last year.

Bors: So... there's you.

Eladl: You could say that.
Picture 1
Bors: Well, there are not many more female editorial cartoonists in America. Maybe four.

Eladl: Actually, I was shocked to find this out because I thought there was only a limited number of female cartoonists in Egypt. But when I visited the United States I found the same issue--only four female editorial cartoonists! So now I've had to change my view. (laughter)

Bors: You know, there was talk in the AAEC board meeting about opening up membership to international cartoonists.

Eladl: This is really great. However, why did you think of it just now, why not before?

Bors: Actually, it's been discussed before but people had wanted to keep it closed to Americans. As time goes on, more people want to have it open to international cartoonists. Maybe because there are less and less cartoonists working in the states.

Eladl: I think that would be great.

Doaa Bors: You've done a lot of work on the revolution, obviously. And you tend to focus on women's rights and free speech. What other issues are you drawn to?

Eladl: All the issues that concern Egyptian citizen. I deal a lot with women's issues, gender rights, but I think I focus a lot of my work on Egyptian citizens and, because I think any reform should start with the Egyptian citizen, trying to get them to participate in this process.

The purpose of editorial cartooning is to awaken people.  Some media outlets, whether in the United States or Egypt, distort the facts. And normally the media is controlled either by government, by investors, by the people who have the money. So cartoons, they should look into issues and make it clear whether it is black or white, or whether there is a grey area. People can look and distinguish between sincere and honest cartoonists and from other kinds that are not. Even an historian can be under pressure and to fake the writing of history. But cartoonists, we have the freedom to say what we want.

Artwork © Doaa Eladl. Photo courtesy of Stephanie McMillan

Haiti Project: Update 3


WPqTTrRpRyqAVlA4A17I2wA brief recap of our first week in Port-au-Prince. So far we've talked to six cartoonists and comic artists. We're told that this is about the size of the comic scene in Haiti. Although the primary goal of this project is to produce comics journalism, we're of course also scouting for Haitian cartoonists to join Cartoon Movement, and not without success. We're very pleased to welcome Haitian cartoonist Raphael Paquin to the network. 

We've also met with a number of journalists, including two investigative reporters who work for Haitian newspaper Le Nouvelliste. Early next week we plan to have a meeting with our prospective artist Chevelin Pierre and these two journalists to talk about the subjects that would be interesting for a global audience.  These will most likely include a look into the tent cities, why these camps still persist, and the challenges that will have to be overcome to relocate the people living here to real houses.

Another very interesting subject is the current political situation. Michel Martelly, the singer who won the 2011 Presidential elections, enjoys immense popularity among the Haitian people. One of his election promises is free education, which he hopes to fund by taxing the money sent to Haiti by the Haitian diaspora. Among journalists and cartoonists there is no consensus about Martelly. Some think his election promises will be impossible to keep, and that having a president without any political experience can't be good for Haiti. Others think he should be given a chance, and criticize the parliament for blocking the formation of a government by rejecting the Prime Minister proposed by Martelly.

Next week promises to be a busy one. Tomorrow we will be joined by video journalist Caroline Bins, who will be doing a number of video reports from Haiti, including interviews with Haitian cartoonists and a short documentary about our project.

As for impressions after one week in Port-au-Prince, the image of a broken society persists. Although one can't deny that there are efforts towards reconstruction (every other car you see seems to belong to an NGO), the amount of work that needs to be done is staggering.    

Healing Haiti? - Tjeerd Royaards Healing_small
One Haitian journalist we talked to offered an apt analysis of the situation: 'Seen individually, every NGO is doing a good job, but when you look at the broader picture it's difficult to discern what is actually happening.' With a powerless government, and (pre-quake) estimates on the number of NGO's working in the country ranging between 1000 and 10,000 it's no wonder Haiti is sometimes called 'A Republic of NGOs'.  What seems to be missing is an overall and coherent strategy for Haiti to become a stable and prosperous nation. With such a strategy, all the help is no more than a bandage barely holding the piles of rubble together.

Here are some sketches that Matt did today of the tent camp that is located on Place St. Pierre, just outside our hotel.

Sketches - Matt BorsSketch1_small


Haiti Project: Update 2

On Tuesday we met up with Haitian cartoonist Teddy Kesser Monbrun. Teddy (26) is well known in Haiti, as he has been doing cartoons for Le Nouvelliste (one of the two main newspapers of Haiti, together with Le Matin) for the last five years. His cartoons run on the top of the front page of the newspaper, giving him wide recognition with his audience. In Europe and the US, editors rarely allow editorial cartoons to grace the front page of a newpaper. We'll be doing a more extensive interview with Teddy later on this trip, as well a with the cartoonist who works for Le Matin, Jerry Boursiquot (pen name Bousiko). We're meeting with him tomorrow.

                           Matt and Teddy in front of the (temporary) newsroom of Le NouvellisteNouvelliste
Today we got up early to meet Carel Pedre, a radio host and TV presenter (and Haitian celebrity, as we found out), to talk about the challenges facing Haiti today. In his view, the persistence of the tent cities is the major problem. Even though (albeit on a very limited scale) houses are being built people stay in the tent cities because here they have access to food and basic health care, provided by the multitude of NGOs acitve in Haiti. Almost all of the tent city dwellers are without jobs; moving out of the tent cities would mean leaving behind the basic necessities that keep them alive.

                           Carel Pedre in his radio studioIMG_2668
Among other things, Carel is the host of the Haitian version of American Idols, called Digicel Stars. Digicel is the local cell phone network, and it is omnipresent, with ads on walls, parasols, billboards and posters and any other place you can think of. In parts of the city, they've even put up street signs. In a country where the state does not have the means to provide even to most basic services, this is not entirely surprising. The billboards around the city (the ones that aren't taken by Digicel) are dominated by ads for water filtration systems and power generators. We wonder if this is what libertarians have in mind when they talk about minimum government, maximum freedom?

                           Digicel streetsign IMG_2673
The second appointment on the schedule today was a meeting with a comic artist that would be very well suited for the project, Chevelin Pierre. Chevelin is one of the few Haitian cartoonists that is well versed in sequential comics. He works for a number of NGOs, and is probably best known for a full-page comic he does  for Chimen Lakay, a free paper published by Sitwayen Ayiti (Citizen Haiti). With a circulation of half a million copies, this is currently the best read publication in Haiti. Perhaps even more important than the number of copies, is that the paper (and comic) is published in Creole, instead of French. Although French is one of Haiti's official languages (together with Creole), many people are only fluent in Creole, and don't read French very well. The two newspapers Le Nouvelliste and Le Matin are published in French.

Chevelin working (L) and one of his comics in Chimen Lakay (R)   Untitled-1
There's a good chance that part or all of the comic that will result from this trip will be drawn by Chevelin, as his style and the quality of his work meet our requirements. The next challenge will be to pair him up with one or more Haitian journalists who can do in-depth reporting and translate these to a comic script (with some of our help).

Cartoon Movement's editorial team meets up with Chevelin Pierre (L) and his brother Ralph Penel Pierre (also a comic artist)(R)IMG_2682

Next week: BOOM!

Ten years into America's two major military campaigns in the Muslim world, Improvised Explosive Devices–IEDs–have become the weapon of choice for insurgents attacking American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. Powerful, homemade explosives targeted at vehicles, IEDs have been credited with killing at least 1,500 Americans in Afghanistan since 2002. Many thousands of others have been left limbless and countless more have received traumatic brain injuries that will be with them for the rest of their lives.

Boompage5 Wednesday, July 20, we will publish "Boom!" by David Axe and Ryan Alexander-Tanner, a first hand account of an IED attack Axe was in while embedded with the US Military in Afghanistan earlier this year.

Axe and Alexander-Tanner are collaborating on another comics journalism project with co-writer Corey Hutchins. "The Accidental Candidate" will be a 100 page study of Alvin Greene, the eccentric unemployed Army veteran who unexpectedly won the Democratic nomination for South Carolina's Senate seat despite never campaigning. They have launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise $1,000 to get started.

In the pitch, Axe writes, "On one hand, he’s proof that there’s a place for the 'everyman' at the center of political power in the free world. On the other, his win is evidence of the mass apathy, confusion and ignorance coursing through the American electorate... His is a cautionary tale, and a diagnosis of a sick political system." They have $200 to go in the next five days, so go donate.