On September 11-12 and 13, 35 political cartoonists from all corners of the globe came together in Normandy, France, to discuss the future of their profession after Charlie Hebdo.
Every year (this was the 5th editition), World War Two museum Mémorial de Caen invites cartoonists to meet each other and the public. This year was special. Originally planned for April the meeting was cancelled in February because safety could not be guaranteed. Fortunately, cancellation turned out to be postponement. This year, more than any other, a lot of cartoonists felt the urgency reaffirm their commitment to social satire and to freedom of speech.
Over a 1000 people attended the debates, once again proving that France is a country with high regard for political cartooning. A fact that was further emphasized when the event's hashtag #DessinDePresse became the top trending hashtag in France.
The French government took the gathering of almost three dozen cartoonists (and the public) very seriously indeed. The audience was screened beforehand, the museum was guarded by numerous police, and the cartoonists were transported with police escort.
Three days in Caen were filled with engaging debates about the limits to freedom of expression, the question whether or not a cartoonist is a journalist and the impact of the attack on Charlie Hebdo on the profession. But another threat was also discussed: one of the most engaging debates of the event focused on the economic difficulties that cartoonists face. It's getting harder and harder to make a living with political cartoons; one might even argue this is a bigger risk to the profession than the risk of a terror attack.
Wherever cartoonists gather, there will be drawing. The Memorial provided two giant pieces of paper and invited all the cartoonists to draw a tribute to the victims of the January 7 attack. The 'frescos' will be on display in the town of Bayeux (near Caen) during the Prix Bayeyx-Cavados, an award for war correspondents.
Here is a video of one of the frescos, showing all the works: