Blocked in China, Iran, Russia and Turkey

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If you can read this post, you are part of the diminishing group that enjoys free access to the Internet (or using a VPN). An old saying about cartoonists states that a good cartoon always needs to piss off someone.

We tend to agree, and it seems we are doing a good job pissing off those in power, especially those despots who fear a few lines will make them lose their power. How do we know this? Cartoon Movement is currently blocked in China, Iran, Russia and Turkey.

Source: Comparitech


Pedro Molina Wins Courage in Cartooning Award

Nicaraguan cartoonist and Cartoon Movement member Pedro X. Molina has won this year’s Courage in Editorial Cartooning Award.

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From the website of CRNI:

Pedro X. Molina of Nicaragua is a long-standing proponent of freedom of expression and a tireless ally of cartoonists in trouble elsewhere. Of late he has had cause to chronicle the deteriorating condition of society under President Daniel Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo. As citizens took to the streets to protest, in Molina’s own words, “several years of suffering electoral frauds, selective repression, attempts to censor the internet, mismanagement of environmental disasters and the enactment of a social security law that curtails the rights of current and future pensioners” the Nicaraguan government has embarked upon increasingly brutal crack-downs.

Human rights groups’ reports differ on the scale but it is apparent several hundred have died in the violence. Despite all the unrest and direct threats and attempts at intimidation by masked paramilitaries working for the regime, Molina has continued to produce hard-hitting cartoons confronting the abuses of the Nicaraguan government. The CRNI board feels that Pedro exemplifies exactly the courageous kind of cartoonist we wish to honor with our award.

The decision to recognize Molina this year is further evidence of the lurch toward authoritarianism that has gripped nations around the world and fits the pattern of cartoonists reporting – along with their colleagues across all mass media – an increasingly hostile environment to journalism and satire.

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An Open Letter to Mark Zuckerberg

Cartoonists have fallen victim to Facebook moderation (or in stronger terms: censorship) more and more in recent months. Here are two (1,2) recent examples of cartoons that were removed from Facebook, probably because they include symbols that refer to Nazi Germany.

Even more serious is a recent cartoon by Thai cartoonist Stephff about Myanmar and the Rohingya that was deleted by Facebook. In this instance the most likely scenario is that the cartoon was removed because it was reported by someone who did not agree with the opinion stated in the cartoon. This does beg the question: did this cartoon cross a line (by showing graphic violence), or is this a case of censorship by Facebook, removing critical journalistic content? We think the latter. Stephff has written an open letter to Facebook, which was also published by Thai newspaper The Nation:

Rohingya tragedy

 I have been a daily political cartoonist since 20 years now . On Thursday evening I received a notice from Facebook that I have violated Facebook rules by publishing on my Facebook page 'Stephff Tribal Art' the cartoon above , therefore it was suppressed and I am asked to comply with 'Facebook rules' or else.

There was no possibility to argue - no button I could press to defend myself against this serious misunderstanding . What are these 'Facebook rules' exactly? That we cannot complain about a genocide in the making because some ultranationalist, xenophobic Burmese netizens have complained to Facebook? What about those same netizens who are spreading a campaign of hatred against the Rohingyas with the help of their compatriot cartoonists? What about all these racist Burmese people who have come to insult me on my page each time I have published a cartoon about the Rohingya tragedy?

What is exactly Facebook's policy? To stop the people who try to bring some substantial fight against bad things happening in this World and allow only people who publish pictures of their lunch?

Why don't you employ real people with a brain to judge if a cartoon is racist or if - on contrary - it fights against racism. Because apparently your stupid algorithms are far from being able to tell the difference. I can't believe you are siding with the very same people who are supporting the oppression and killings of the Rohingya people. Is this the 'better World' Facebook is trying to build where we cannot criticize harshly a genocide in the making?


Thoughts on the Arrest of Indian Cartoonist G. Bala

Another cartoonist arrested, this time in India. From The Hindu:

'Last week, the Tamil Nadu police arrested the cartoonist G. Bala. His offence was creating and posting a cartoon that was an “obscene” portrayal of the Chief Minister and other officials. Bala’s cartoon showed the chief minister, the collector and the police chief standing naked except for the proverbial ‘fig leaves’ comprising wads of cash while a child lay burning in front of them.'

The cartoon was in response to a man and wife setting themselves and their two children on fire, allegedly due to harassment by a money-lender and is a critique of the failure government officials to combat usury, despite widespread condemnation from political parties.

We obviously condemn the arrest of yet another cartoonist (he has been released on bail), in what is a pattern of harassment of journalists in that part of India. However, it is also interesting to see how this arrest reveals how uncomfortable many Indian journalists are with hard-hitting cartoons.

The Hindu has a piece that condemns arrest of the cartoonist, but goes on to say how newspaper editors provide a necessary filter for cartoons and ‘editorial judgement’. While we can agree that a good editor can have value, we love the fact that social media has given cartoonists the ability to share cartoons that would never see any ink because of conservative editors. 

‘A cartoon should make you smile and not cringe.’ observes colleague Indian cartoonist Mathi, in what we at Cartoon Movement feel must be one of the most senseless statements ever to be made by a cartoonist. Some of the very best cartoons ever made are ones that make you cringe. They hurt to look at, precisely because they expose a painful injustice and, in doing so, transfer feelings of guilt and shame to the viewer. They are the best cartoons, because they are most likely to inspire action to remedy that particular injustice.

While it is difficult to gauge the impact of a local cartoon from afar, this one seems to be hard-hitting but hardly ‘obscene’. Given its social media engagement it also struck home with many people. So, in our opinion, a cartoon that certainly doesn’t warrant an arrest, but also one that might have very well deserved to see print, despite what the editors at The Hindu think.


Call to Action: Free Ramón Esono Ebalé

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Cartoon Movement, EG Justice and Cartoonists Rights Network International along with a coalition of international organizations invite cartoonists and artists from around the world to support the #FreeNseRamon campaign. 

Cartoonist Ramón Esono Ebalé was arrested on September 16 in Equatorial Guinea and was extensively interrogated in front of witnesses about his provocative drawings of members of the government. He is being held on trumped up  charges of counterfeiting and money laundering, but has yet to be formally charged. He has unjustly spent over 50 days in prison without a clear prospect for release. His imprisonment appears to be a deliberate attempt to curtail his freedom to express himself through his art and writings.  View Ramon's work at www.jamonyqueso.co.

Please note there is a Spanish language initiative running in cooperation with  our campaign at www.freenseramon.com.

Show your support for Ramon's release by sharing your illustration with the following hashtag: #FreeNseRamon

Please keep in mind the campaign exclusively aims to get Ramon released from prison because he is innocent.   

Our goal is to bring attention to his plight. We are not requesting artwork that is critical of government officials in Equatorial Guinea as we do not want to do anything to jeopardize his case.

Select art will be displayed on the EG Justice #FreeNseRamon website.

The campaign will run from now until Ramon's release from prison.

More details about his arrest here.

More on Equatorial Guinea at EgJustice.org.

This call to action is also available in French, Spanish and Portuguese.


Ebalé Receives Courage in Cartooning Award

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Cartoonists Right Network International has announced this year’s recipient of the CRNI Award: Ramón Esono Ebalé, a cartoonist from Equatorial Guinea who is currently imprisoned in Equatorial Guinea’s notorious Black Beach prison under as yet unspecified charges.

Ramón is a gifted and outspoken graphic novelist and editorial cartoonist. Every year this award is given to the cartoonist or cartoonists who have exhibited great courage and self-sacrifice in the pursuit of their craft and in the exercise of free speech.

The Equatorial Guinean government, one of the most notorious kleptocracy’s in Africa, is clearly angered by his outspoken comic and cartoon based criticism of the ruling family. Government seems to be reluctant to charge him with any human rights/free-speech violations and have rather chosen to cook up outrageous charges of money laundering and currency counterfeiting to imprison him. Even now, at this writing, they seem to be having difficulty coming up with any evidence that would withstand international scrutiny.

Mr. Ebalé’s continuous refusal to be intimidated by the threats made against him, and his courage in the face of a brutal and repressive regime led our Board of Directors to make this decision. The award will be given in absentia during the proceedings of the annual convention of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists on November 4, 2017 at a venue on the Hofstra University campus in Long Island, New York.


Emad Hajjaj Investigated Over Religious Cartoon

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Well known Jordan cartoonist and CM contributor Emad Hajjaj is being investigated over a cartoon criticizing the Greek Orthodox Church. The investigation comes after a ‘contempt of religion’ complaint was filed by a citizen.

The cartoon criticized the Patriarch of the Jerusalem Orthodox Church for selling off church owned properties in Jerusalem to the Israeli occupation authorities. The cartoon depicted Jesus Christ on the cross saying ‘I am Christ the son of Mary and I disown Patriarch Theophilos III and all of those who were involved with him in selling the noble Greek Orthodox Church to the Israeli occupation.’

The cartoons triggered many angry responses on social media, and Emad has even received death threats.

Although the investigation is ongoing, Emad has been released and has not been charged with anything yet.

Read more about this case here.


Cartoonists Under Increasing Pressure in Burma

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Image by Burmese cartoonist Lai Lone.

Bad news from Burma (aka Myanmar): after a hopeful period of more freedom, cartoonists are now facing increasing censorship. The Democratic Voice of Burma (a non-profit Burmese media organization) reports that defamation cases have spiked since Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy came to power in 2016:

All of them have been filed using article 66(d) of the 2013 Telecommunications Act, a broadly worded law that allows individuals to be prosecuted for “extorting, coercing, restraining wrongfully, defaming, disturbing, causing undue influence or threatening any person” over a telecommunications network.

“It is quite complicated. So I seldom draw cartoons these days,” said Maung Maung Phaung Tain, [a cartoonist] who draws for several local media outlets.

So far the cases have been limited to mostly civilian critics, who find themselves the target of a lawsuit after writing something negative about a member of the current administration. But journalists and those in the media profession have also been targeted. The law carries a maximum punishment of three years in prison and a fine.

Read the entire article on the website of DVB.

We ran a cartoon project with DVB in 2015 in the run-up to the elections in Burma.