Cynthia P. Schneider, Distinguished Professor in the Practice of Diplomacy at Georgetown University, teaches, publishes, and organizes initiatives in the field of cultural diplomacy, with a focus on relations with the Muslim world. Ambassador Schneider co-directs the Laboratory for Global Performance and Politics at Georgetown, as well as the Los Angeles-based MOST Resource (Muslims on Screen and Television). Additionally, she co-directs the Timbuktu Renaissance project which grew out of her work leading the Arts and Culture Dialogue Initiative within Brookings’ Center for Middle East Policy. From 1998-2001 she served as U.S. Ambassador to the Netherlands, during which time she led initiatives in cultural diplomacy, biotechnology, cyber security, and education. From 1984-1998 Prof. Schneider taught art history at Georgetown, and published on seventeenth century Dutch art. Dr. Schneider has a PhD and BA from Harvard University.
Associate Professor of Anthropology at University of Texas at Arlington, Ritu Gairola Khanduri specializes in visual anthropology with a particular interest in political cartoons. Dr Khanduri has written on the significance of cartoons in Indian politics and presented papers at the Silha Center for Ethics & Hubbard School of Journalism, University of Minnesota, Miranda House College for Women, University of Delhi, Vigdis Finnbogadottier Institute for Multiculturalism & Foreign Languages, University of Iceland and the American Anthropological Association, Washington DC as well as having work featured in Visual Anthropology Review, The Journal of Graphic Novels & Comics, and History & Anthropology among others. She is currently working on a study of the portrayal of Mahatma Gandhi by cartoonists around the world.
Nasreen Sultana Mitu began cartooning in the Bangladeshi satirical magazine UNMAD and currently is an associate editor there; her political cartoons have also appeared in bdnews24.com and New Age and she has won numerous of awards over a decade and a half of cartooning. Besides this she held an assistant professor post at the Institute of Education and Research, University of Rajshahi until October 2018, developing cartoon-based science educational resources. With a view to popularizing science beyond formal classrooms, she founded her own organization Project Tiktaalik which aims to develop printed and web-based science learning materials in cartoon and comic formats. Currently she is a national consultant for UNICEF Bangladesh, working closely with the National Curriculum and Textbook Board (NCTB) of Bangladesh.
CRNI Executive Director Terry Anderson interview with Turkish cartoonist Musa Kart, winner of our annual Courage in Cartooning Award in 2005.
Musa describes the multiple times Prime Minister, later President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan attempted to prosecute him over “insulting” cartoons, finally succeeding during the widespread crackdown on civil liberties that followed the attempted coup of 2016.
This interview was conducted in 2020, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic; at that time CRNI expressed deep concerns about the future of cartooning. This forms part of a series of testimonies intended to help illustrate CRNI’s work in support of threatened cartoonists.
Musa, we first wrote about you long before Recep Erdoğan became president of Turkey. When and how did he first begin his vendetta against you?
About twenty-three years ago I began drawing cartoons in Cumhuriyet, the most prestigious opposition newspaper in Turkey. Cumhuriyet was always a defender of values such as human rights, equality and multiculturalism. With this attitude the newspaper and its employees were regarded with suspicion by conservative politicians and kept under constant pressure. And I got my share. The first case was due to the Erdoğan caricature I drew in 2004 and since that date the pressure on me escalated.
You won CRNI’s Courage in Cartooning Award in 2005; what did this recognition mean to you?
The CRNI award meant that the world’s cartoonists were taking a stand beside a colleague who the powers that be wanted silenced, by lawsuits and the threat of punishment. As I said before, this award made me feel like a member of the world cartoonist family and still hangs in the corner of my living room, on the most visible wall in my home.
You were taken to court and exonerated again about a decade later, but things took a turn for the worse after the attempted coup in the summer of 2016. Explain what happened later that year.
Despite all the pressure Cumhuriyet’s employees continued their critical and dissenting work until October 2016. Unfortunately that preceding summer the country witnessed a coup attempt by a group that previously supported the government. But this coup, which led to the deaths of hundreds of people and thousands of injuries, was turned into an opportunity by the government. They threw all their opponents, regardless of their lack of support for the coup into one proverbial basket. And so we were among those targeted. After being detained in prison for nine months we were released for our court hearing. We continued to write and draw from where we had left off, and this middling situation lasted about a year. Afterwards they sent us back to prison despite the objections of the public and contrary opinions from the chief judges and even the justice minister. A further five months later we were released again with a decision from the Supreme Court. But outside we found conditions were even more severe. Our newspaper was taken away from us. Lawsuits were filled even for those who had merely shared the cartoons I had drawn years ago. And the latest development: the lower criminal court demanded that we be jailed again, saying it would not comply with the Supreme Court’s release order. So we now await The Supreme Court Assembly of Criminal Chambers’ last word. For the better part of a year I’ve been at home, under threat of being imprisoned for a third time.
CRNI collaborated with Amnesty International on their #FreeTurkeyMedia campaign and Cumhuriyet started reprinting some of the resulting cartoons in your old front page spot while you were in jail. Does international attention like this help those fighting for their freedom of expression in Turkey?
Unfortunately, such objections often cannot be expressed out loud due to the climate of fear created in our country. The support I received from CRNI and the various cartoonists during this period was my biggest source of morale. I owe you and them thanks.
Your opening statement at trial was fantastic, we worked hard to translate and publish it as soon as possible on our website. You said you feel cartooning encourages critical thinking. Explain.
Cartooning is the art of the moment in which the independent, free-thinking, questioning mind, begins to express itself. That’s why there’s no love between authoritarians and cartoonists. As I said in my own defence, we should evaluate cartooning as a means for the development of critical thinking in our schools but we evidently prefer to pursue judicial processes that would completely destroy it.
Famously, Turkey is the world’s biggest prosecutor of journalists and media workers. There have also been economic impacts upon the press in the country. Yet Turkey has a culture of cartooning just as rich and varied as many European nations; do you see it recovering?
You cannot destroy a public’s sense of humour by putting cartoonists in jail. It can appear suddenly, at the most unexpected moment and place, like a flower blooming through a stone wall.
Unfortunately, the media in Turkey has mostly lost its ability to be free and independent. I saw the extent and the “burning” effect of this change in my own personal story. There was a big objection from the entire Turkish media to the lawsuit filed for the cat caricature I drew about fifteen years ago. However, in the most recent judicial process that has been going on for the last four years, the eyes of our media were completely shut.
But I cared about the support of the world cartoonists’ family the most. While still facing the possibility of going to prison for the third time I believe that I will continue to feel the support of this wonderful family.
I am sad to see that you have stopped cartooning after all these troubles. Do you still draw for your own pleasure?
I think that after some forty years as a cartoonist who pursued that solely, against all pressures, it’s ok to find another way to express myself. I am currently working on an oil painting exhibition, with a dash of humour in it.
To Report a Cartoonist in Danger Email Cartoonists Rights Network International
The popular cartoonist, known as president of the Jordanian Cartoonists’ Association and for his participation in international events, is accused of “insulting an Arab country” under cybercrime law.
• UPDATE AUGUST 30TH: HAJJAJ RELEASED ON BAIL, DETAILS TO FOLLOW •
As reported by those in the region, Emad Hajjaj was arrested late on August 26th within hours of a cartoon of his appearing online, including at The New Arab news outlet, and despite a court appearance today he has yet to be granted bail.
Reaction has been swift, particularly among Arabic-speaking cartoonists and local journalists who are staging protests.
Earlier this year we wrote to the Jordanian embassy in the United States seeking assurances about another cartoonist, and at that time pointed out that the country’s constitution enshrines freedom of opinion […] in writing, or by means of photographic representation and other forms of expression, provided that such does not violate the law. That last clause is telling.
“As a matter of pure intellectual curiosity I’m almost inclined to hear prosecutors’ arguments about Emad’s cartoon and how its portrayal of Israel’s last minute reversal on the F-35 fighter deal between the USA and UAE – in other words, a cartoon very easily read as sympathetic to the injured party – constitutes a criminal insult to an Arab state. But life is too short. The Kingdom of Jordan should instead cease this embarrassing display immediately. The pictures from Amman today tell their own story. Everyone is wearing masks. There’s never a good time for a vexatious and needless lawsuit but the midst of a pandemic is definitely not it.”Terry Anderson, Executive Director, CRNI
Daryl Cagle has written with great warmth about his friend, pointing out that within a small community like the world’s cartoonists few of us are more than a degree or two of separation away, no matter the geography. Emad collaborated with CRNI last year at the Cartooning Global Forum/ États Généraux du Dessin de Presse / المنتدى العام لرسوم الصحف in Paris.
We call upon the Jordanian authorities to discount whatever sentiments they think have been bruised by this cartoon and, as the vice-chair of the International Press Institute puts it, “join the club of democratic nations […] develop thick skin and end the culture of protecting themselves and each other from criticism”. There is no meaningful damage done to anyone by Emad Hajjaj’s cartoon and even if there were it would hardly be enough to derail the diplomatic processes between sovereign states. Let him go.
• #FreeEmadHajjaj •
To Report a Cartoonist in Danger Email Cartoonists Rights Network International
CRNI is disturbed to learn that amid complaints from parents and local police, the Governor of Texas has now intervened in a controversy over use of an editorial cartoon as part of a lesson in the Wylie Independent School District.
We’re grateful to Daryl Cagle for bringing this incident to our attention, summarised well on his blog and including a robust response from the cartoonist involved, David Fitzsimmons of the Arizona Daily Star.
Fitzsommons’ cartoon was drawn in May in response to the alleged murder of George Floyd, the event that sparked the worldwide #BlackLivesMatter protest movement. As incidents of police violence against African American citizens continue – most recently the shooting of Jacob Blake – it is apparent the issues addressed by the cartoon remain vital and that the teacher concerned was perfectly apposite in selecting it as part of an online lesson this month. It is of great concern that Texas Governor Greg Abbott is now pushing for an investigation and dismissals despite the withdrawal of the material and an apology.
Other than the polarised reactions elicited by the cartoon (perhaps exaggerated in the context of the ongoing party convention season) a notable feature of the complaints made, particularly by the police fraternity spokesperson seen here, is what might be best described as “cartoon illiteracy”. Our Executive Director takes up the topic below.
Editorial cartoons are a commonplace resource in school curricula across the Unites States of America and licensing for educational purposes represents a valuable income stream at a time when press and media visibility for political cartoonists is dwindling. See our recent emergency statement about cartoonists’ viability in general.
“I dearly wish Texans aggrieved by what they felt they saw in this excellent Fitzsimmons cartoon would take a second look. The main subject of the cartoon is not the contemporary police officer, who is just the last in a series of avatars for oppression, but the identical African American figure that is portrayed throughout. The bottom right corner of the composition is empty; racism will assume yet another face in the future unless we eradicate it.
“In any case, the whole purpose and intent of an editorial cartoon is a reflection of one opinion on an issue and in the context of educational use students are not compelled to agree with it but rather to examine that view and identify the historical events to which it refers. To dispense with cartoons simply because they evoke a reaction is an affront to the intelligence of the young and speaks to an insidious lack of trust in teachers. This culture war farrago cannot be allowed to establish a precedent.”Terry Anderson, Executive Director, CRNI