An article by Omar al-Jaffal for the online journal Al-Monitor has shone a light on the dire situation of some of Iraq’s political cartoonists. Ahmed Falah — several of whose cartoons were brandished in poster form at a recent Bhagdad protest — told the writer “It is weird how my caricatures are used during protests, while none of the country’s newspapers have published any of them. This proves that the freedom of the media in the country is a big lie. Falah, producing cartoons that target corrupt politicians and clergy alike, left Iraq in 2014 following death threats stemming from his work. “I decided to flee Baghdad to Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta for a short period of time, until the militia forgot about me,” Fallah told Al-Monitor. “Yet I could not remain silent for long. The political situation is getting worse in Iraq and keeping silent about the ruling parties is a disgrace in my eyes.” In February of the same year, cartoonist Ahmed al-Rubaie left Bagdhad after his newspaper’s offices were bombed in reaction to a caricature he did of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Al-Rubaie died in Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan, of respiratory problems one month later. Iraq’s Press Freedom Advocacy Association linked al-Rubiae’s death to his forced exile, and has demanded a government investigation.
For Ahmed Falah, the move to Jakarta has not ended the death threats. “Following the recent cartoons and after they became widespread in the community,” he told reporter Omar al-Jaffal, “I started receiving threats on my Facebook page and in emails.”
Writes al-Jaffal: Yet Fallah seemed determined to continue to draw. “We should invest in these protests so that we are granted our full freedom — our freedom of expression and our [right] to live decently,” he said, adding, “I am not offending anyone. I am just expressing the irony in the community, peacefully.” [More]
CRNI Courage in Cartooning Award Presented to Imprisoned Artist/Activist Atena Farghadani Before Audience of International Cartoonists
September 5, 2015 — CRNI’s Courage in Editorial Cartooning award was presented, in absentia, to Atena Farghadani at a gathering of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists in Columbus, Ohio. Ms. Farghadani is presently in prison in Iran, facing a 12 year 9 month sentence for posting a cartoon on her Facebook page. Washington Post cartoonist and animator Ann Telnaes accepted the award on Ms. Farghadani’s behalf, saying: “Atena Farghadani . . . was arrested for this cartoon ridiculing members of the Iranian parliament over a law restricting birth control which would set women’s rights in Iran back decades. She was speaking out for the women of Iran . . . She was beaten. She was interrogated nine hours at a time. She was subjected to surveillance cameras mounted in the shower, where male guards would watch the women prisoners.
“You know, I think that we talk a lot about courage in our business, and we like to think that we would have the courage to stand for our principals regardless of what happens to our personal safety. I don’t know if I could do what she has done . . . I think it’s quite amazing, actually, what this young woman has done.”
At the end of the award ceremony, CRNI founder Robert Russell asked everyone in the audience to sign an open letter to the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Khamenei, and to Iran’s President, Hassan Rouhani. The letter petitions their good offices to ensure that Atena Farghadani will be granted a pardon and released from prison.
UPDATE: More Arrests as Sri Lankan Military Linked to 2010 Disappearance of Cartoonist/Columnist Prageeth Eknaligoda
An Indian news agency has reported that four more members of the Sri Lankan military — two of them senior officers — have been arrested in the investigation into the disappearance of cartoonist/columnist Prageeth Eknaligoda.
A week earlier another Sri Lankan army officer had reportedly confessed to interrogating Eknaligoda for three days following Eknaligoda’s disappearance on January 24, 2010. According to Lanka e-News, Sgt. Major Ron Banda has admitted to questioning the prominent journalist at the Girathale Army Camp regarding a book Eknaligoda had written about the country’s then-president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, and his family. This is the first time the cartoonist’s abduction has been successfully linked to government agents. After the three-day interrogation, Eknaligoda was reportedly taken away by another officer and has not been seen since.
Sgt. Major Banda and another suspect are now under arrest, and the investigation is continuing according to a police spokesperson. The police have been accused of failing to mount a proper search when Prageeth Eknaligoda was first reported missing in 2010. Eknaligoda’s wife Sandhya recalled: “On the night my husband failed to return home I went to Homagama police station to report it but they refused to open a case. The police finally accepted my complaint two weeks later.” She has since faced harassment for petitioning the government for a comprehensive investigation.
The Committee to Protect Journalists has confirmed nineteen Sri Lankan journalists murdered in Sri Lanka since 1992. Sri Lanka ranked fourth most dangerous country for journalists in the CPJ’s 2014 world index. [Story]
CRNI’s 2015 Award for Courage in Editorial Cartooning is being given to Iranian artist-activist Atena Farghadani. Ms. Farghadani was jailed in Tehran in August of 2014 after publishing a cartoon in protest of proposed legislation that would restrict birth control and women’s rights in Iran. Following her release four months later, Farghadani posted a YouTube video recounting her beatings and mistreatment while in prison. In anticipation of her trial on charges that included “spreading propaganda against the system,” Farghadani wrote a defiant open letter to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in which she said: “I know … I will be in a court that screams injustice. I will be present before a judge who for years has skewed the balance of justice … What you call an ‘insult to representatives of the parliament by means of cartoons’ I consider to be an artistic expression of the … parliament which our nation does not deserve!”
As a result of that letter and her YouTube posting, Farghadani was returned to prison in January, 2015. In May, she was tried and found guilty of “insulting members of parliament through paintings” and “insulting the Iranian supreme leader.” Atena Farghadani was sentenced to 12 years, nine months in prison.
The Courage in Cartooning award will be presented to Atena Farghadani in absentia by CRNI founder and Executive Director Dr. Robert Russell in Columbus, Ohio, on September 5, at an evening event during the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists 2015 convention. [Story]
Veteran American political cartoonist Ted Rall has been fired by the LA Times based on a poor quality, sometimes unintelligable audio tape made by a police officer ticketing the cartoonist for jaywalking in Los Angeles 14 years ago. In a May 11 blog for the LA Times website, Rall recalled that he was arbitrarily handcuffed and pushed up against a wall by the ticketing officer at the time. In announcing Rall’s termination on July 28, editorial-page editor Nicholas Goldberg wrote: “An audiotape of the encounter recorded by the police officer . . . gives no indication that there was physical violence of any sort . . .” Rall has posted both the police recording provided to the LA Times and an enhanced version of that tape by three sound technicians Rall consulted. In the cleaned-up version of the tape, the cartoonist reports, someone can be heard saying “He was just jaywalking . . . you need to take off . . . you need to take off his handcuffs.”
As Rall said in an interview with Sputnick News: “Look, I pissed off cops. I’ve done many anti-LAPD cartoons and essays over the years. The LAPPL [Los Angeles Police Protective League] made clear in their blog that they have long been angered by me, and they are crowing about my dismissal. So, just at a bare minimum, think about how disturbing this is. The LAPD, or the LAPPL, passed illegally — basically stole something out of the evidence room — slipped it to the top editors at the LA Times, one of the biggest and most widely-respected metro-dailies in the United States, in order to get me fired. In order to send a message to other reporters, ‘don’t screw with cops’.” [More]