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Cartooning Global Forum

December 13, 2018 in Events, General

The Surreal McCoy writes:

Monday (December 10th) was the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Earlier this year in October I was asked to attend the first Cartooning Global Forum day at UNESCO in Paris, to represent PCO (paying my own train fare). I made several useful contacts at this forum for future collaborations and will be following up with them in due course. Finally got to meet Malaysian cartoonist Zunar, (pictured below with Terry Anderson) who has finally had his travel ban lifted. (The next forum is being planned for October 2019, in between the weekends at St Juste.)

  

Photo ©The Surreal McCoy

Opening remarks from Terry Anderson, Deputy Executive Director, CRNI and PCO member:

 ÉTATS GÉNÉRAUX DE DESSIN DE PRESSE UNESCO – 03/10/18 WORKING SESSION 1 REDUCED INEQUALITIES and PEACE, JUSTICE & STRONGER INSTITUTIONS

Dear colleagues, it’s a great pleasure to open the morning’s discussion on the topics laid out by Jérôme. These are lofty goals but if we believe in the power and value of cartooning as a medium then I don’t think it is beyond us to contribute toward their realisation. And if this forum is the beginning of a truly global co-operative undertaking by all cartoonists’ organisations, something I confess by own has tried and failed to create in the past, then so much the better.

Briefly: no conversation in this context and setting on the topic of peace could begin without acknowledging the contribution of our friends at Cartooning For Peace, and especially so soon after the loss of their honorary president Kofi Annan. We send them our best wishes and commend their exemplary work in the promotion of cartooning as a means of crossing barriers of understanding and promoting human rights, tolerance and peace.

Nor can we gather in this city and fail to remember the singular atrocity that unfolded on its streets in January 2015 and how for one moment it seemed as if the planet was galvanised and united by a single sentiment, Je Suis Charlie. There are participants here today who lost loved ones and friends on that day; we grieve with them and honour their courage.

Over the intervening years we’ve heard much about cartoonists as “canaries in the coal mine” and how our problems are early indicators of a wider, insidious and worsening chilling of freedom of expression. I’ve used the metaphor myself in the past but increasingly I dislike it as it implies a degree of fragility and dispensability. We are not victims or victims in waiting. We are essential to the health of press and media and therefore crucial to democracy. I would cite last year’s Humor Amenaçat initiative in Spain and the subsequent distribution of the Illegal Times freesheet as an excellent example of cartoonists and their allies pro-actively taking an urgent message directly tothe populace without awaiting a gatekeeper’s say-so. They were ahead of the curve; the FreeMuse anticensorship organisation later declared Spain the world’s top jailer of musicians, specifically rap artists protesting their government.

 We kid ourselves if we believe the problems addressed by the UN’s SDGs are reserved wholly to the developing world.

CRNI knows the primary threat to cartoonists’ freedom comes from authoritarian governments, so I hope we’ll hear from those of you here who have first-hand experience of persecution by the state, by corrupt officials, military or police personnel. Share with us the means by which cartooning has exposed the malaise afflicting the societies in which you work. Where and when do you think cartooning has resulted in palpable change? For those who have come from larger organisations that work toward the goals of social justice and peace, have you used cartoons? If so, in what way and was if effective? If you would never use cartoons, tell us why. What lessons can we cartoonists glean from others’ willingness or resistance to the use of our work?

We are asked today to consider inequality. In very recent weeks we have seen how a cartoon proffered on one side of the world as fair comment can be interpreted on the other as an unwarranted, racist and misogynistic attack. No quarter was given in the ensuing debate; humourless snowflakes on one side, unrepentant white supremacists on the other. Very little humility or grace. Some (but hardly enough) acknowledgment of a bigger problem. Around the world editorial cartooning remains stubbornly male and, even in the multicultural west, largely white. We can do a better job of reflecting the diversity of experience and the inequalities that lie therein only if we are likewise as diverse. How may we at last achieve that? Positively discriminate and risk accusations of favouritism? Rely on merit, assuming a level playing field that simply doesn’t exist? For those who have encouraged newcomers into the profession, tell us about who wants to be a cartoonist in the digital media century and what we need to do to make our sphere a welcoming place for all. For those who have written policy with equality at its heart, guide us on best practice. And then more widely, tell us about projects you have undertaken that were designed to reach audiences not served by the typical press cartoon; the poorest or least educated in your society and minority groups of every classification.

Inevitably there will be some overlap with the work to be discussed this afternoon. It’s virtually impossible to talk about education without including inequality and vice versa. So do not be afraid to introduce an idea here that can be returned to later. But for those still seeking a way to grasp the matter at hand, for me these two broad goals can be boiled down to a single word: fairness. So consider, how do we make our profession fairer and how may our work make the world fairer?

OPENING REMARKS TERRY ANDERSON, DEPUTY EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR CARTOONISTS RIGHTS NETWORK INTERNATIONAL

Terry Anderson speaking at the forum. This and the headline photos ©DR Studio-irresistable/E.K.

You can download a full copy of the the report from the Global Cartooning Forum here.

Zunar is giving a talk ‘Laughter As A Political Tool’ at University College London on 17th January. Here’s a link for more details and for booking tickets.

Eaten Fish Thanks

December 22, 2017 in General, News

As many will have seen, young Iranian cartoonist Ali Doarani’s (AKA Eaten Fish) ordeal in Papua New Guinea is now over.

He has been moved to a safe country aided by ICORN (The International Cities of Refuge Network) who promote freedom of expression and offer sanctuary around the world to writers and artists under threat.

Ali had been in detention on Manus Island since 2013 living in harsh conditions, which badly affected his health. His cartoon record of his time on the island was widely shared and published. In 2016 CRNI handed Ali the ‘Courage in Editorial Cartooning Award’.

PCO and CRNI protest outside the Australian Embassy in London

The PCO has been pleased to help in a small way by launching the #AddAFish digital campaign. We’d like to thank our members and cartoonists from all corners of the world who contributed to the huge digital shoal of fish we created with their drawings.

The poster for the Herne Bay exhibition

Particular thanks to Shrewsbury International Cartoon Festival who allowed us to display the banner, and Herne Bay Cartoon Festival who put on an exhibition and workshop in support of the appeal.

The Eaten Fish Tanks

Thanks also to Westminster Reference Library in Central London who displayed an ‘Eaten Fish tank’ as part of the recent ‘Gagged’ Exhibition.

We were honoured to be involved with other organisations and campaigners around the world who also fought for Ali’s cause.

Very good news indeed and we wish Ali well!

However, we do not forget the refugees who remain in Papua New Guinea living in such a perilous environment as well as all the cartoonists around the world who are being persecuted for their work.

Gagged Ungagged Talk

December 18, 2017 in General

Andy Davey writes:

I was honoured to be asked by those nice people at Procartoonists to “host” an evening of interviews and talks to accompany the “Gagged” exhibition of cartoons at Westminster Reference Library on the subject of the oppression, censorship and gagging of political cartoonists around the world. My experience of hosting is limited to the point of zero, so I therefore accepted with trepidation but nevertheless with complete admiration for the cartoonists who have suffered for their art and reportage. As it turned out on the evening, my admiration was justified and afterwards I felt very humbled by the experience.

Martin Rowson shows a blank slide of a cartoon censored by The Independent

The quality of the speakers was excellent. First up was the Guardian’s own superbly scatalogical Martin Rowson, giving us a short history of poo in print and advice on how to successfully offend just about anybody in power.

Cartoon by © Zunar

The evening then turned somewhat digital via Skype interviews and screenings of films of various cartoonists who fight their political systems despite hardship. A poignant dramatic intervention occurred here – we had booked the heroic Malaysian cartoonist Zunar to speak to us via video link but we could not establish connection. It was later revealed that his no-show was due to his arrest and confiscation of his phone and computer. He faces 43 years in jail because of his criticisms of the Malaysian PM but continues to draw because he feels that it is his duty to do so. Against this, it’s impossible not to feel absolutely humbled. The world needs obstinate, moral, courageous people like Zunar.

Cartoon by © Khalid Albaih

Our second cartoonist interviewee was no less impressive. Khalid Albaih, a cartoonist from Sudan (via Romania and the US) who now resides in Denmark in order to freely publish his political cartoons in a democratic environment. His cartoons (usually wordless) were used widely in Arab Spring demonstrations but he would not be able to publish such “seditious” work in those countries. Khalid was very eloquent and passionate about his need to draw political cartoons but has chosen not to associate himself with any media outlet for fear of being censored or corrupted. Consequently, he has a day job and draws at night.

Cartoonist Andy Davey with Jodie Ginsberg, CEO of Index on Censorship. Photo © Kasia Kowalska

This was followed by a rearguard action from the estimable Jodie Ginsberg from Index on Censorship, showing the visceral power of angry political cartoons from around the world and how they have been suppressed, sometimes brutally.

Video call with Robert Russell. Photo © Kasia Kowalska

Lastly we were privileged to speak to Robert Russell, the founder of Cartoonists Rights Network International – a man who has probably done more than any to help and support dozens of imprisoned, harassed and endangered cartoonists around the world.

All of this must remind us of how lucky we are in western democracies. But it is useful to remember that, even in the UK, the conditions that allow satire to flourish are not fully met. Censorship exists in practical terms because of the severe bias of the traditional media.

The future of cartoons may well be that modelled by Khalid Albaih – radical, delivered via independent social platforms…but unpaid. And the message that emerged from the evening was that cartoons most certainly have a future. Each contributor underlined the importance of political cartoons, particularly in societies with a democratic deficit.

A film of the event will be available to view online in the new year.

Cartoonists in peril

July 15, 2009 in Comment

najialaliCartoonists in this country might be feeling the pinch at the moment, but at least they don’t work under the threat of arrest, assault or even death.

In Honduras recently, cartoonist Allan McDonald (interview) was detained for 24 hours, had his studio ransacked and cartoons and drawing materials destroyed following the publication of several cartoons supporting ousted president Manuel Zelaya.

Similarly, in Mexico cartoonist Mario Robles was recently given the Award for Courage in Editorial Cartooning by the Cartoonists Rights Network International (CRNI) after a cartoon mocking a crackdown on public demonstrations led to death threats and an assualt.

In Iran, cartoonist Behzad Basho is being held in prison following the recent post-election uprising, and fellow Iranian Nik Kowsar is currently living in exile in Canada following arrests and death threats.

These threats and assaults are nothing new – in 1987 Palestinian cartoonist Naji al-Ali (previously in Bloghorn) was murdered outside the London offices of a Kuwaiti newspaper. A collection of his cartoons, A Child in Palestine, has recently been published in the west for the first time.