CRNI is appalled to learn that Argentine cartoonist Cristian Dzwonik – pen name Nik and creator of the popular Gaturro character – has suffered a sustained period of online harassment following a Tweet written by Aníbal Fernández, the national Minister of Security, which specified Dzwonik’s daughters’ school.
On October 9th the cartoonist Cristian Dzwonik made a statement on his professional Twitter account critical of the government’s recent proclamations of largesse, perceived by opponents as an attempt to compensate for bad results in September’s primary elections (PASO).
A day later Minister Fernández responded and made a clear reference to the school attended by the cartoonist’s children. Despite reports that Fernández undertook to remove the post, at the time of writing it is still on Twitter.
Dzwonik says that he considers this a direct threat against himself and his family. In subsequent posts to social media he has made mention of further private messages from unknown parties which he directly attributes to the example set by the minister, and portrayed himself dwarfed by the attention. For his part, the minister has claimed that he knew about the school only because the cartoonist has himself made reference to it in the past.
Condemnation was swift and came from all quarters. Frequent comparison has been made between the tone of Fernández’s message and the none-too-subtle threats of a gangster. CRNI’s representative in the country is cartoonist Marlene Pohle, also Vice-President General of the worldwide Federation of Cartoonists’ Organisations (FECO). On October 15th she issued a letter in response to the incident:
I returned to Argentina after many years living in Germany. It is the country that I love but that also sometimes disappoints me. My father, a German immigrant from the 1930s, used to say that he loved Argentina as a country with an eternal future. And I think it still is.
However the current populist government of Alberto Fernández and Cristina Kirchner seems to have no direction, no plan, no empathy, and is utterly hollow. Faced with increasingly strong criticism from the people they have taken to the fmailiar tactic of persecuting and threatening journalists, those who give voice to our general discomfort. When I say journalism I also include cartoonists. When she served in a previous government Mrs Kirchner described a cartoon of the great Sábat, which depicted her with a mouth sewn shut, as a literal “Mafia-like” threat to keep silent.
Now it is no less a person than our security minister who has threatened the cartoonist Nik through one of the social networks. But this was not because of any cartoon but rather the artist’s opinion that the government should take care of education and schools, progress and dignity instead of offering trips to schoolchildren who have not been taught face-to-face through the pandemic.
Aníbal Fernández took the time to let Nik know that he, the minister, is well aware of what school his daughters attend. A tactic commonly used by “the Mafia”, making pointed mention of vulnerable family members. No?
Nik himself, opposition politicians and journalists reacted accordingly. The incident made front page news. The right to free expression is clear in the minds of the people but we did not hear any criticism from within our government.
It is up to us to be vigilant, create the kind of society in which we want to live and ensure that such behaviour does not become commonplace.
Marlene Pohle, Funes, 15.10.2021
Dzwonik’s cartoons appear in the daily La Nación. He is a high profile figure and his cat character Gaturro is well-liked. It is therefore unsurprising that expressions of solidarity have been forthcoming in the pages of that newspaper, on social media and even on late night tv.
But we are perturbed by the minister’s refusal to back down or accept that what he has done crosses a line, and note that of late he has implied that Dzwonik’s output on social media is being monitored and retained, in itself another variety of threat.
At left, Dzwonik says “What peace of mind it gives me to know that the Minister of Security takes a screenshot and saves everything that I think and tweet. A true guarantee of freedom of expression.” The full interview to which the cartoonist refers is available via the Todo Noticias Twitter account. The Minister denies threatening the cartoonist and goes on to say that in regard to public discourse his view is that “children, the home and women are sacrosanct.”
“The threats issued by Minister Aníbal Fernández represent an inexcusable degradation of standards in Argentina. He has attempted to silence a critic by making direct reference to their children. He should withdraw his comments and offer a fulsome apology to Cristian Dzwonik and his family. If he cannot bring himself to do so he should consider his position.”Terry Anderson, Executive Director, CRNI